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Page 1: The Fighter Kite Book! · The Fighter Kite Book! ... bridle lines, or a tail to reduce that reaction. ... It™s important for the fighter™s sail to be lightweight, smooth,
Page 2: The Fighter Kite Book! · The Fighter Kite Book! ... bridle lines, or a tail to reduce that reaction. ... It™s important for the fighter™s sail to be lightweight, smooth,

byDavid Gomberg

illustrations by Kathleen Brady

with comments and contributions by:Dinesh Bahadur, Alfred Chang, Carl Crowell, Pierre Fabre, Simon Freidin,

Mel Govig, Philippe Gallot, Jim Glass, Victor Heredia, Bruce Jarvie,Rick Kinnaird, Bud Koger, Martyn Lawrence, Brooks Leffler, Martin Lester,

Robert Loera, Ric Merry, Seiko Nakamura, Takeshi Nishibayashi,Makoto Ohashi, David Pelham, Joel Scholz, Kevin Shannon,Ron Spaulding, Stan Swanson, Lee Toy, and Joe Vaughan

The Fighter Kite Book!

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Thanks again to those who have offeredcomments and contributions to this effort:

Dinesh Bahadur - Come Fight a KiteAlfred Chang - Hawaii Kite Fighters Association

Carl Crowell - Factor KitesPierre Fabre - Paris, France

Simon Freidin - Melbourne, AustraliaMel Govig - KiteLines Magazine

Philippe Gallot - Fighter KitesJim Glass - Into the Wind

Victor Heredia - Kite Country/Vic’s Fighter KitesBruce Jarvie - AKA Fighter Kite Committee

Rick Kinnaird - Maryland Kite SocietyBud Koger - Bellevue, Washington

Martyn Lawrence - Merlin KitesBrooks Leffler - American Kitefliers Association

Martin Lester - Martin Lester KitesRobert Loera - Kite Fantasy

Ric Merry - Fighter Kite NewsSeiko Nakamura - Nagasaki Kite Society

Takeshi Nishibayashi - Japan Kite AssociationMakoto Ohashi - Japan Kite AssociationDavid Pelham - Penguin Book of Kites

Joel Scholz - Sky Delight KitesKevin Shannon - Carlisle Kite Works

Ron Spaulding - Thai Kite Heritage GroupStan Swanson - Condor KitesLee Toy - Scottsdale, Arizona

Joe Vaughan - Grandmaster Kites

and the hundreds of other flyersthat I have talked to,

flown with,and learned from.

Copyright, David Gomberg 1992

All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication maybe reproduced or transmitted in any form or by anymeans, electronic or mechanical, includingphotocopy, recording, or any information storageand retrieval system without permission in writingfrom the author.

Address inquires to:Cascade Kites,

Box 13363, Salem Oregon 97309

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Table of Contents


1. WHAT IS A FIGHTER KITE 1General Descriptions 1Kite Components 1Basic Control 3Fighter Development 3

Indian Fighters 4Designs from the Far East 4New Designs 6

2. FLYING BASICS 7Before you Leave the House 7Assisted Launching 8Prelaunch Checklist 9Line Handling 10Maneuvering Your Fighter 11Solo Launching 13

3. SCIENTIFIC STUFF 15Stability 15

Pitch 16Roll 16Spin 16

Dihedral 16Balance 17Angle of Attack 18What Makes the Kite Fly? 19

4. ALL ABOUT WIND AND TERRAIN 21Wind Characteristics 22

Smoothness 22Turbulence 24Strength 25

How Wind Effects Your Fighter Kite 25Picking a Flying Site 26Safety and Courtesy 28

5. FIGHTER KITE TUNING 31Bridle Adjustments 31

Adjust Angle of Attack 32Move the Tow-point 33Change the Bridle Line Length 34Effect of Adjustments 35

Balancing the Kite 35Two Leg Bridles 36Three Leg Bridles 37Weight Shifts 37

Bowing the Kite 38T.L.A.R. 40


7. ALL ABOUT FLYING LINE 47Selecting the Right Line 47Types of Line 48

Waxed Linen Line 48Cotton and Nylon 48Stunt Kite Line 48Cutting Line 49

Line Weight 50Spools and Reels 51

Indian Spools 51Halo Winders 52Japanese and Korean Spools 52Baskets 52

Attaching the Flying Line 53Flyline Troubleshooting 53

Tangles 53“Twist” 54Fraying 54Knots 54Obstacles 55

8. ROKKAKU FLYING AND FIGHTING 57What is a Rokkaku? 57Combat Fundamentals 58

Cutting 58Tipping 59Wind Blocking 60

Combat Rules 60Construction 60

Size 61Sticks 61Bridles 62

Battle Strategy 62Maneuvering 62Field Position 63Tuning 64

Safety, Safety, Safety! 64

9. FIGHTER CONTESTS 65General Competition Suggestions 66Types of Competitions 67

Cutting Line Fights 67Line Contact Contests 68Non-Contact Precision 68Freestyle 69

Fighting Techniques 69


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When I mentioned to a long-time fighter flier that I was working on a book about single-linemaneuverables, he laughed out loud. “You’ve got some brass!” he said. And of course, hewas right.

Anyone even contemplating a book on fighters is confronting an ominous task. For one thing,the subject is technically broad and complex. There are hundreds of types of kites, steeped inthousands of years of culture and history. As one of my flying friends has said, a small diamondfighter is deceptively simple in appearance - yet embodied in this modest form made from twosticks and a cover, is the whole essence and spirit of kites.

To make matters worse, fighter fliers are an ominous bunch as well. They are drawn togetherby a distinctly satisfying pastime which sets them apart even from other kiters. Some wouldprefer that I not share their unique secrets. You can try and teach the fundamentals, they say,but people will only understand the “soul” of fighters by regularly flying one themselves.

Others were anxious to help and to see the sport grow. The strength of this new book is, Ibelieve, the unselfish contributions of some of the best fliers from around the country andaround the world. My goal was to produce the “complete flying manual for single-linemaneuverable kites”.

In Chapter One, we introduce you to the contemporary fighter and cover briefly — too briefly — thecolorful history of fighter flying.Chapter Two provides basic instructions for launching, flying, and line handling.Chapters Three and Four explain the principles of aerodynamics and weather which effect kite flight.Chapter Five is an overview of tuning - one of the most confusing and least understood aspects of kiteperformance.In Chapter Six, we present one basic construction plan to start you making your own fighter.In Chapter Seven, we attempt to unravel the mysteries of flying line.Finally, in Chapters Eight and Nine, we discuss fighter contests with a particular emphasis on Rokkakuflying. We also talk about tactics and strategy.

The most important thing we want to promote is safe and responsible flying.

Obviously, this isn’t a fancy coffee-table book filled with stunning photos of kites and kite fliers.We don’t apologize for that. It’s a book on how to fly kites. It’s a book we hope you’ll scribblenotes in or put in your kite bag and take to the flying field.

Somewhere between its pages, maybe you too will discover the "soul" of fighter flying.

Good Winds!

David GombergMarch, 1992




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A fighter kite is a maneuverable, one-line kite.

Almost any kind of kite can be controlled by manipulating the tension or pull on theline. Flying objects, by their very nature, are quite unstable. Most kites rely on designfeatures such as shape, frame, bridle lines, or a tail to reduce that reaction.

Fighters, on the other hand, are designed to take advantage of that natural instabilityin order to produce controlled mobility.

Think of a car with no steering wheel. This particular car is designed to keep turningin a circle until you step on the accelerator. Then it moves off in the direction it'spointed. Let up on the gas and the car starts turning again.

Fighters work pretty much the same way. They spin in the air until you apply throttle.Of course, there is no pedal to step on so you use the only other control you have— you pull on the line.

Try it a few times and you’ll see that fighters rely on line tension changes to maximizeflight responsiveness.

Controlling the seemingly erratic and random flight of a fighter is one of the greatestchallenges and joys a kiteflier can master. The task requires practice, dexterity, andconstant attention. But if you can master fighter kites, the skills you develop will makeyou a better flier of almost any kind of kite.

Kite Components

Fighters come in a variety of shapes and sizes. With a bit of research, you'll learnthat most of them are based on cultural and historical designs as well as some fairlycomplex scientific principles. We’ll talk more about that later.

The best thing that ever happened to me in kiting was learning to fly fighters. Fightersproduce a state of mind unequaled by other types of kites. It is the purest form of thesport.

Joel ScholtzAustin, Texas

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For now, lets get acquainted with a basic fighter and the parts that many will havein common.


leading edge

cross spar

center spine



spar pocket


bridle point

trailing edge


spine pocket

One basic part of the kite is the sail. All kinds of materials are used. Paper, nylonfabric, plastic and mylar are common. It’s important for the fighter’s sail to belightweight, smooth, and taut.

Almost all fighters also have a defined vertical centerline which is formed by a rigidrod which we call the spine. The spine goes on the back of the kite. Most spines havea slight curve at the upper end. When you assemble your kite, make sure the curvedpart is at the top, and that it bends back from the sail of the kite.

Fighters rely on a horizontal spreader that we call the cross spar or spar for short.Usually, spars are made of thin, flexible fiberglass or bamboo. Spars and spines areusually held against the sail with fabric pockets.

The bridle is the string that attaches to the kite and is then tied to your flying line.Where your flying line attaches to the bridle is called the tow-point. Bridles aredesigned to set the angle that the kite faces into the wind. They also balance theforce of the wind across the kite's frame (spine and spars). Depending on the designof your fighter, the bridle can connect at two, three, four or more places. We call theseconnections the bridle points.

Finally, some fighters incorporate extra design features like tails, battens, or evenstrategically placed holes in the sail.

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Basic Control

Fighters are controlled by increasing or decreasing flying line tension. A slack linelets the kite flatten out and lose stability. It begins to spin since it has no built-instabilizing features. In other words, the kite has no reason to fly in any one directionor another.

When you pull on the kite line, the windbends or bows the cross spar back andcreates a stabilizing feature called adihedral. The kite stops spinning andmoves in the direction it’s pointed.

Many kites will respond in this manner butfighters do it more quickly and precisely.

By alternating between a slack and tautline, you direct your kite to spin, or flystraight. To change direction, all you haveto worry about is picking the “right” time topull on the line or let it out.

Fighter Development

Kiteflying originated in China over 2,000 years ago. The expansion and developmentof Buddhism in this area later brought about a cultural exchange between India,China, and Japan. In fact, the introduction of kites to India is credited to Chinesescholars and monks.

The earliest kites were probably simple fighters. Unstable forms tethered to theground were gradually controlled by their fliers. Experimentation and experiencethen led to more easily maneuvered designs.

One reason kite fighting did not come to the West until relatively recently is that itstarted in Asia and most books that mention kite fighting were written in Sanskrit,Persian, Arabic, and Urdu. Most of us don’t read Urdu.

We’ll talk more about dihedral and the other scientific principles that effect fighterflight in Chapter Three. In the meanwhile, let’s take a brief look at the culturaldevelopment of fighters and some of the different designs history has produced.

The amount of tension and the sharpness or subtlety with which it is applied to theline at precisely the right moment is the key to good control. This can only be learntthrough practice which is well rewarded as you get to know your kite and slowlymaster the skills of flying.

Martyn LawrenceGwynedd, Wales, United Kingdom

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Indian Fighters

One of the oldest and most familiar kite designs is the Indian Fighter.

For hundreds of years, residents of rural areas throughout India have gathered tojoin in combat with colorful tissue paper and bamboo fighter kites. In the larger cities,rooftops and terraces are covered with fliers and excited throngs of supporters.Everyone takes time off from work and there is a holiday atmosphere as an incrediblenumber of kites fill the sky.

Most Indian festivals are held in January. Kites are flownon glass coated flying line and fliers search out anyavailable opponent and try to cut their line and thencapture the loose kite.

Below, the outstretched hands of children compete forthe spoils.

The kites are handmade by methods passed down frommaster to apprentice for centuries. Deceptively simplelooking, Indian Fighters require careful and precisecrafting to insure a balanced and responsive flier.

Indian style fighters are now produced all over theworld. The design is so efficient that it is still one of themost common models we see.

Designs from the Far East

Fighter kites have long been popular in many Asian countries and a tremendousvariety of designs and flying styles have emerged. People in Japan, Korea,Thailand, and Malaysia fly fighters unique to their countries. Each has their own longand colorful tradition of kite fighting.

Fliers in Tibet and Nepal fly kites similar to the Indian Fighter. Other nationalities fly

Korean Fighter Thai Chula

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Every kiteflying competition in Thailand is a symbolic battle of the sexes between the“male” Chula kite and the “female” Pakpao. The former is larger, dominant andaggressive. The latter is flighty and clever. He sets out to capture her; she, thoughsmaller, has many tricks and can ensnare her man with cunning. The outcome ofthe competition, as in real life, is no foregone conclusion.

Ron SpauldingBangkok, Thailand

kites which are probably derived from it such as Japan’s Nagasaki Hata.The city of Nagasaki has a tradition of flying unique fighter kites which dates back

Nagasaki Hata

to the 1500’s. At that time, the city was the only Japanese port open to Europeantraders. Nagasaki's kites are called “Hata” which means “flag” in Japanese. Usuallymade of red, white, and blue paper, the Hata is one of the quickest of the traditionalpaper fighters.

Nagasaki's oldest record of kite flying is a picture of Indonesian children flying from

the trading center. It is interesting that the kites use colors from the Dutch flag, andthat we call our cutting line "bidoro" which is Portugese for "glass". There are over200 traditional designs used to decorate the Hata. These designs are taken fromsignal flags used on trading ships, from family crests, and from Japanese words orcharacters. A unique feature of these kites are the "myu" or tassels attached to thecorners.

Seiko NakamuraNagasaki, Japan

Because of similarities to traditional Indian kites and use of foreign flag designs, wecan theorize that the Hata was brought to Japan by traders. Other areas in southeastAsia also fly distinct red, white, and blue kites. They provide an interesting exampleof the interplay between culture, history, and kite development.

The Hata is distinct from most other Japanese kites which tend to be rectangular.The Japanese kite fighting tradition also moved beyond smaller kites flown by oneperson to the larger “battle kites” which are maneuvered by teams of fliers.

Small RokkakuNishi Fighter

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New Designs

In America and Europe, most people fly fighters as single line stunters. Modernmaterials such as lighter weight nylon or plastic and mylar for sails, and fiberglassand graphite for spars have bred a new generation of colorful and unique designs.These fast and sensitive kites encourage sophisticated and skillful line handlingtechniques.

Butterfighter Bumble Bee Fighter

Although traditionally, fighter kites are involved contests and combat, many Westernfliers focus more on flying them as a contemplative art.

Contemplative art ... that means for fun.

Glass coated flying line is seldom used and most fliers concentrate on control andprecision in a variety of wind conditions. The priority is no longer a competition tovanquish an opponent, but instead, an opportunity to demonstrate your ability whileremaining aware and in control as you fly.

I don't even like to call them fighting kites. For me, these are "dancing kites". Flyingis an enriching expression of a beautiful art form. It's a transcending experience.Concentration is essential which makes flying a mind-clearing experience.

Joe VaughanMifflinville, Pennsylvania

If there is a message in this chapter, it's that fighters are deceptively simple. Twosticks and a cover are all it takes to make a small diamond fighter. Yet embodied inthis modest form is the whole essence and true spirit of kites!

So now that we’ve told you a little about the tradition, background and developmentof fighters, let’s get ready to go fly one.

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Fighter kites can do things no other kite can do.

Even in the lightest of winds, a fighter in the hands of a skilled flier can amazeonlookers by not only staying in the air, but doing figure eights, dives, twists, anddancing its way to great heights.

And of course, they do it all on only one line which makes those multi-line sport kitefliers awfully jealous.

If you are a novice, your first goal is to simply keep the kite aloft, gradually learningto use your hands and fingers to manipulate the subtle pulse of the flying line so thatthe kite performs to your will and artistry.

Soon, you too will learn to “talk with the wind”. Like any new language, it requirespatience and determination, but the rewards of mastering this skill can never betaken away.

Before you Leave the House

Most people who ride bikes remember falling off or crashing when they first startedlearning. So did they quit trying? Of course not — they picked themselves up andkept on practicing.

Practice is the key to becoming a skilled fighter kite flier. Don’t let a few crashes slowyou down at the beginning. They are much less painful than falling off a bike.

So let’s go flying.

The first time you fly a fighter, take time to get to know your kite. Watch itsmovements closely. Feel its pull on the line and on your fingers. Watch how itresponds to your control. Don’t fly it too high or try fancy maneuvers. There is plentyof time for that later.

From the beginning, you should learn to fly your kite. It should not be flying you!

Victor HerediaSan Diego, California

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Stand with your back to the wind with about 10feet or so of extra line beside you loose on theground. Have your assistant stand about 50feet away, lightly holding the kite at its outsidecorners with the nose pointing up.

Positioning the kite is very important. Whenyou launch, the kite is going to move in thedirection it is pointing. Make sure it's pointingup at the sky instead of at some obstacle - likea spectator.

Having extra line is also important. You needto let line out to control your fighter. If you useall of your line, you won’t have any control.

Before you leave the house, there are a few basic things you might want to consider.

1. Many fighter kites on the market come with an instruction sheet. If you haveone, read it. If you didn’t get one, contact the store or manufacturer where youbought the kite and see if one is available.

Every kite is different. Instruction sheets contain specific information onassembly, fine tuning, replacement parts, and warranties. This is importantstuff! You may want to take it with you just for reference, but don’t lose it.

2. If your fighter uses a dowel for a spine, buy an extra one now. Shaping andbending can be done a lot easier at home than on the field. Don't let a brokenspine cut your day short.

3. Have you picked a flying site? It helps to know where you are going beforeyou try to get there. Better read the Chapter on selecting a location.

4. Check the wind. Fighters perform well in a variety of wind conditions, butfor your first few sessions, it should be "clean" or uninterrupted and blowingaround 4-6 miles per hour. Less or more is all right, but not as easy.

5. Take a helper if at all possible. Having a “ground crew” eases the processconsiderably. If no help is available, be sure and read the section on SelfLaunching .

Also remember to take your kite, any stray parts, and your flying line. We onlymention this because we’re good at forgetting things like that.

Assisted Launching

Launching is a lot easier at first if you have a friend to help.

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Now complete the “Prelaunch Checklist”. Do everything on this list before everylaunch.

Prelaunch Checklist:

1. Check the area under where you will be flying for possible hazards —mainly people.

2. Look behind you to make sure that you have a clear path if you need to backup. Backing up is usually not necessary for fighter kite flying, but most kitersare conditioned to move backward as a natural way to get a kite out of trouble.Check around to make sure that, if you instinctively begin to move backward,you won’t be moving into trouble.

3. Look around your feet. Make sure that your loose kiteline isn’t tangled initself, in rocks or weeds, or in your shoelaces. Loose line loves shoelaces!

4. If there are other kite fliers around, check the sky for traffic. Fighters aredesigned for close contact with other kites. But your first flight is not the besttime to confront them. Make sure the sky is clear and announce to any nearbyfliers that you are ready to launch.

Finished with the checklist? On your signal, your helper should allow you to gentlybut firmly pull the kite out of their hands and into the air. Think of it as almostsnatching it away from them.

Continue a strong steady upward pull onthe line to start the kite up and into thewind. Maintain tension on the line to keepthe kite climbing.

If winds are light, it may be necessary tosteadily pull in line to keep the kite movingahead. Let any excess line drop to yourfeet as you pull in.

When you feel the pressure of the wind onthe kite, slowly let line out. That doesn'tmean you can just let the line loose.Remember to keep some friction on theline to maintain control.

Running with the kite is perhaps the most common mistake that beginning fliersmake. Don’t run. It causes awkward flight patterns because you are too involved withyour feet when you should be watching your kite and thinking about your maneuvers.You can create your own wind for your kite’s surface with short tugging motions onyour line.

Dinesh BahadurPacific Grove, California

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Try giving the line quick, rhythmic jerks ortugs - line in to climb - line out when you feelwind pressure. Tugging creates extra windpressure on the kite.

Allow the kite to climb to a height of 50 feetor more where you can practice maneuveringand line handling without smashing into theground.

Line Handling

Line handling is a two handed process. Don’t ever let one hand free until you havefirm control of the line with the other hand. Both hands should work evenly with short,smooth movements.

I like to use a "corkscrew" technique. Let line out and the kite will loop into a circle.As the kite turns up at the end of that circle, tug line in so the kite climbs a few feet.Then let line out again to start another circle. This is a real effective way to gainaltitude.

Ric MerrySeattle, Washington

Hold the line near the tip or first joint of yourindex finger. Use your thumb as an anchor.Practice pulling in hand-over-hand and thenletting line out quickly. Work close to your chest- pulling continuously with rhythm. You shouldbe working at an angle - from right shoulder toleft hip, or from left shoulder to right hip.

Once the kite is airborne, it will be easy to let outyards and yards of line using only the slightesttugs. After a certain distance, however, you’llwant to stop the kite from going farther. Thehigher it goes, the less control you have, and ifyou run out of line, you'll have no control at all.

Losing control of the kite is the most common mistake new fliers make. If a kite fliesup at too high an angle, it may “overfly” you, turn nose down with it’s back to the wind,and come straight toward the ground.

How do you regain control?? Take in any slack line fast. Tug hard until the kite isairborne again. A kite is "airborne" when it maintains its position in the air, withminimal line slack, and you can feel it at the end of your line.

As you continue to practice, avoid slack line. Loose line leads to bad flying habits.

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Maneuvering Your Fighter

Handling fighters is a matter of pulling in line to make it move, and playing out lineto achieve distance and control direction.

Fighter kites take commitment, practice, and constant attention. The result is agraceful, controlled response to the wind which is like flying a leaf on a string. Eachhesitation and thought is translated into motion as your fighter traces your state ofmind on the clouds. When your mind and body are synchronized, controlling yourfighter is effortless.

Jim GlassBoulder, Colorado

If the kite is moving in the wrong direction, let out line. A quick loosening of linetension will slow or stop forward motion. Just let the line slide out smoothly throughyour fingers. Depending on the wind, your fighter will relax and float, changedirection, or begin to spin around the bridle tow-point.

When the kite is pointed in the direction you want, put tension on the line and thekite will move in that direction. Pull in - either in a steady hand-over-hand motion forlong, sustained flights, or in sharp tugs to make the kite quickly dart a few feet.

When the wind is adequate to basically keep my kite in a stable overhead position,yet not so strong as to make it stick there, I like to use a "guitar strum" to maintainposition. Reach up as far on the line as you can with one hand. Bring the liine in tothe other hand where you can slowly let it out while reaching up again.

It's great to strum and pick your kite into squares and triangles in the air.

Ric MerrySeattle, Washington

A good practice exercise is to move the fighter left and then right across the sky.

Use line tension to fly the kite into the air. Then begin to let out just enough line tomake the kite stop rising and begin to turn. When it is pointing to the left, providetension again by pulling in. Then make the fighter unstable again so you can turn itback to the right. Now practice repeatedly turning left and right.Another good training routine is diving and recovering. Go lower - then lower - then

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LOWER. With practice, your reactions willbecome quick enough that you will be ableto fly within a few inches of the groundwithout crashing.

If you think the kite is going to nose-dive intothe ground, let out some line. Don’t panicand pull in - that will only make the kite flyfaster and hit harder. And a hard crash couldbreak the spine or damage the nose section.

The proper stance for controlling your kite isknees slightly bent, elbows close to yoursides, and hands in front of your chest. Flapping your arms doesn't help the kite flyand it makes you tired much more quickly.

Continue to use both handson the kite line and makesure the line doesn't get alltangled up around yourfeet.

In other words ... stand likethis:

Not like this:

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Remember, if your kite dives toward the ground, pulling on the line won’t make it goup again. It will make the kite zoom toward the ground even faster. Loosen the line.Let the kite become unstable. Then pull in when the kite points up and fly away fromthe crash. Your friends will be amazed!

Repeat this several times to get your desired elevation.

You can make your kite spin faster by attaching 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of gum or putty tothe bottom of the center spine. I usually carry a supply of putty so I can fine tune theresponsiveness of my fighters in different wind conditions.

Stan SwansonBoulder, Colorado

Quick, intricate maneuvering is developed through good line tension and sharpsignals.

Beginners often find it easier to sharpen their skills with the help of a training tail.Attach about ten feet of tail to the base of the kite. Use plastic, light ribbon, or crepepaper cut to one-and-a-half inches in width. This new tail will slow down the actionof the kite during your learning period.

Think of it almost like "training wheels" for your kite. As you gain experience, cut offa foot or two of tail at a time until it can be eliminated entirely.

Solo Launching

With practice, you will soon be able to launch your fighter without a tail, without anassistant, and, eventually, with little or no wind.

To launch solo, grasp the nose of the kite with one hand and hold the line in the other.Release the kite, let the wind carry it for a short distance, then pull up on the line togain height.

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In Nagasaki, I saw fliers perform an interesting hand launch. Holding the kite by thebridle, they would flick it out into the wind. The kite would float on the wind for severalmeters, then the flier would pull the line taut. It was very efficient.

Pierre Fabre Paris, France

Sometimes in light winds, hand launching can be difficult and you may prefer to beginwith a bit more line in the air. At times like this, you may want to “create” a launchingassistant.

A fairly cooperative assistant can be made from sand, sticks, or almost any kind ofprop for the kite. Simply lean your fighter against the “assistant” and move back intothe wind, playing out line as you go. When you are ready to launch, take in the slackline and lift the fighter into the air.

The nice thing about this kind of assistant is that they never demand equal flyingtime.

In time, you will learn to launch your fighter right off the ground. A curved center spinemakes this much easier. If the kite is face-down and the nose is pointed up-wind, aquick tug on the line will lift it a few inches into the air. With quick reactions and goodline handling, you should be able to maintain control and gain altitude.

Just remember not to make a habit of dragging your kite across rough ground whiletrying to get it back in the air.

A self launch can take time to master. If you have trouble at first, stick with it. Bestubborn about learning and take time to practice. And remember, every time you hitthe ground, you can effect the kite’s tuning. Check it over. Maybe that’s why you’rehaving trouble.

Robert Loera Honolulu, Hawaii

Launching alone will take practice until your reaction time develops. Then it willseem as easy as getting out of bed in the morning - which we admit is easier on somedays than others...

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Earlier, we suggested that scientific principles, expressed through kite designs andfeatures, produce more stable and controlled fliers.

Let’s try and say that another way.

A poorly designed kite is unstable. It doesn’t fly or worse, it flops all over thesky. It causes accidents, upsets your neighbors, crashes, and generallymakes you frustrated and unpopular.

A well designed kite does what you want. It’s safe, goes where you send it,makes you look good and better yet, makes you feel good.

So science is the difference between being frustrated and feeling good.

A number of kite enthusiasts obtain as much pleasure from designing and buildingtheir kites as they do from flying them, and a great deal of time and effort goes intohighly imaginative and well-finished creations.

Unfortunately, imagination and craftsmanship alone don’t produce lift and stability,so before proceeding with an original configuration it is well to have a grasp of theroots of aerodynamic theory as applied to kites. As in any other field of design, themeasure of good design is directly proportional to the amount of information that onehas on the problem.

David PelhamPenguin Book of Kites


We’ve been telling you that maneuvering fighter kites is based on recognizing,predicting, and controlling stability.

Actually, there are several different types of instability that effect your fighter. Someare helpful and can be used in maneuvering the kite. Some are not.

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Let’s take a look at the three basic forms of instability in kite flight.

Pitch: Think of a boat dipping alternatively at the bow and stern. That’s called“pitch” or movement around the horizontal axis. Your fighter's horizontal axisruns roughly along the cross spar. Pitch shows up as wobbling at the top andbottom of the spine or the kite actually trying to flip end-over-end.

Roll: Now think about that ship turning over on its side. That’s called “roll” ormovement around the vertical axis. Your fighter’s verticle axis is the centerspine. When it rolls, the kite leans, wobbles or tries to rotate from side-to-side.

Spin: Finally, imagine a boat caught in a whirlpool and turning round-and-round its center of gravity. Fighters do the same thing. They turn around theirbridle tow-point in a way which, if properly controlled, allow us to changedirection. Aeronautical engineers call this a "yaw", but we'll just call it spin.

pitch roll spin or yaw

You’re probably real confused now about boats, kites, pitches and yaws. The pointis that unstable kites can move in a number of different uncontrolled directions. Weneed to look for design features which provide stability and control. Three that areparticularly important are dihedral, balance, and the kite’s angle of attack.

Dihedral — to convert spin into direction:

Earlier, we talked about dihedral as a design feature that helps provide stability andcontrol fighter kites.

We already know that fighters are traditionally constructed with a rigid spine and aflexible cross spar. When you put tension on the bridle line by pulling, increased airpressure on the sail bends the wing tips back.

If you think about it, what you’ve done by bending the kite in half is change a singleflat surface, into two flat surfaces joined at an angle. That’s basically the definitionof a “dihedral”.

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Unequal Air Pressure Equilibrium

In other words, the greater surface area exposed receives greater wind pressure andtends to get pushed back into balance at the position of least resistance.

Dihedral is one of the most fundamental principles of kite flight and stability.

Flat Surface Dihedral Angle

A flat surface naturally gives way to any pressure from the wind. Two flat surfaces,joined by an angle, move into a position that creates the least resistance. It workslike a weather vane.

A flat kite has no way of naturally moving into a position of least resistance so it spinsaround the tow-point. When we introduce dihedral into the kite, we create a positionof least resistance. That stops the spin and helps the kite move.

So as we’ve been saying all along, by carefully choosing the point in the kite’s spinto suddenly create that dihedral, we are able to control the direction the kite moves.

Balance - to avoid roll and maintain equlibrium:

A fighter’s dihedral will only work when the kite is properly balanced.

Balance is an important feature of almost all fighters. By balance, we mean that theyhave equal amounts of sail surface and frame weight on both sides of the centerspine.

If the center spine of the kite doesn’t divide the kite into two perfectly balancedhalves, the wind will exert more pressure on one side of the sail and the kite will rollin the air. It won’t actually flip over backwards because the bridle holds the front ofthe kite towards the flier. So instead, one side of the kite will lean back and it will eitherpull to one side or begin to fly in larger, uncontrolled circles.

This is something we’ll talk more about in Chapter Five.

When a properly balanced fighter faces straight into the wind, the dihedral causesboth halves of the kite to receive equal wind pressure. Then, if the kite leans to oneside, that half of the kite exposes more sail surface to the wind and is quickly pushedback into equlibrium.

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Let's take a moment now to rephrase our basic instructions for fighter flying. In aproperly balanced kite, when you put tension on the line, you create a dihedral. Thiscreases the kite along it’s center spine and creates a position of least resistance —at least from side to side — which establishes both stability and direction. If the bridleand tow-point have been set to the proper angle of attack, the kite will naturally moveoff in the direction it is pointed.

Angle of Attack - to control pitch and increase response:

The “angle of attack” has nothing to do with diving on another fighter during a kitebattle. Instead, generally speaking, it's the angle that the surface or spine of the kitefaces into the wind.

The attack angle is formed by the bridleand flying line. Where these two linescome together at the tow point isprobably the most critical part of yourentire kite. An improper setting willcause instability that may prevent eventhe most perfectly constructed fighterfrom getting off the ground.

As we’ll see in the Tuning Chapter,even minor shifts will effect speed andperformance.

Angle of Attack

If the bridle is set too low, the kite may have a tendency to pitch or flip over so theback of the kite faces the wind. Usually, the bridle gets tangled or the flying line goesslack, and the kite dives uncontrolled and sometimes dangerously to the ground.If the bridle is set too high, you won't get any lift at all. You'll try to launch and thekite will keep settling lazily back down to the ground, tail first.

To test your bridle setting, hold the kite by the tow point. The spine of the fightershould be at an angle of between 20 and 30 degrees from the ground. Then test itin the air. Only small changes should be needed.

Balance refers, not so much to the weight of the kite, as to the amount of sail areaand how it is disbursed about the kite's frame. If the sail is even slightly larger on oneside of the spine than on the other, the kite will favor or lean to that side. Even saildecorations such as applique can create wind resistance which effects this kind of"balance"

The traditional method of adjusting sail area on simple paper or plastic fighters is tocut or burn small holes in the sail. But I recommend you try something different.

Kevin ShannonCarlisle, Pennsylvania

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So What Makes the Kite Fly?

The wind, the design of the kite, and you holding on to the line from the ground,together create the conditions needed to generate flight or lift. And if you think aboutit, all three of these factors come together through the angle of attack.

What this all means is that, if the wind speed increases or if you tug on your flyingline to simulate an increase, your fighter will move faster and pull harder. If windsdecrease or you let line out, the kite will slow down, fall back, or become unstable.

In higher winds, the edges of the kite may actually be pushed back in a way thatcreates a dihedral even when you don’t want one. This makes direction much moredifficult to control - especially when the kite is already moving faster.

Let’s take a more indepth look at wind and how it effects fighter flying.

Angle of Attack

If the flyline and bridle hold the kite in thewind at an appropriate angle, then windpressure is exerted against the sail. Liftresults from this pressure being deflectedacross the face of the kite.

Wind moving over the top of the kite istraveling faster because it has a longerdistance to cover. This creates a partialvacuum or low pressure area along the backof the kite which actually pulls or sucks thekite upward.

An aerofoil at a low angle causes air to accelerate overits top surface, decreasing pressure and causing lift.

An aerofoil at an extreme angle causes the airflowover its top surface to break up into turbulence, and liftis decreased.

David PelhamPenguin Book of Kites

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Most people don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about the wind. Sailors, pilots,and other “professionals” may be exceptions, but for ordinary folks, average windshave little effect on their daily lives and go almost unnoticed.

Kite fliers are different.

A kite and the wind together form a system. The wind is the engine. No engine,no flying. For a fighter kite flier, learning about wind and how to “read” it will makethe difference between success and frustration on the flying field.

Experienced fliers have a habit of watching the wind constantly, even when notflying. They watch flags, trees, smoke, ripples on water, and all the other signs ofmovement in the air. Being aware of the wind is second nature to a proficient flier.And when the wind is “right”, they begin to get a wistful look in their eyes.

One admonishment before we start — IT'S NEVER THE WIND'S FAULT!!

Many fliers wish they could change the wind. If it doesn’t blow hard enough - orsmooth enough - or soon enough, they get upset.

Trust us — the wind doesn’t care what you think! It does what it wants!

Think of all the energy those fliers wasted being aggravated. Resolve to use thatsame energy learning to cope with the wind the way it is, and you’ll be a much betterflier. You’ll soon be able to fly and enjoy yourself in just about any conditions. You’llbe flying while those others are complaining that the wind doesn’t listen!

So ... start watching the wind. Get comfortable with it. Become one of those wistfulobservers who always notices the breeze.

Wind is caused by uneven atmospheric temperatures.

Warmer air expands; cooler air contracts. Different temperatures thus createdifferences in air pressure. Since nature tends to seek equlibrium, these imbalanceseven themselves out by moving air from one place to another. Winds result.


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Wind Characterisitics

The wind has two characteristics that affect fighter kites — smoothness andstrength. We’ll talk about SMOOTHNESS first.

Finding a smooth, regular wind is, of course, preferable. Smooth winds are easierand more pleasant to fly in. Control is more predictable. Accidents are less likely.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a truly “steady breeze”. While it’s temptingto think of the wind as a smooth, regular progression of air from one point to another,the facts are that it just doesn’t happen that way.

Friction with the ground slows wind down; obstacles like trees, buildings, and hillscreate turbulance; changes in temperature and even the heat of the ground surfaceaffect wind patterns. And, in the face of all that, your job as a flier is to find thesmoothest, most regular wind available.

Sound hard? It’s not.

Let’s look at the wind. We’ll represent the wind with arrows. The direction of the arrowindicates the direction of the wind at that point, and the length of the arrow representswind velocity:

If the earth were perfectly flat, the wind would look like this. Friction with the groundcauses the air near the surface to move more slowly — even when the wind is quitestrong.

High Speed

Low Speed

Different Directions

and ...

Free Stream

Boundary Layer

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You can demonstrate this yourself on a windy day simply by lying down on the groundand feeling what it’s like down there. Higher up, the wind moves faster, but is stillaffected by the slower air closer to the ground. This creates a region called theBOUNDARY LAYER — the region from the ground level up to the level at whichthe wind is no longer affected. Everything above the Boundary Layer is called theFREE STREAM.

The important things to know about the Boundary Layer are:

Its thickness varies.Its effect on your kite will always be evident at low altitudes (under tenfeet).Effects will sometimes be apparent at higher levels (up to fifty or sixty feet).

Different Directions

Boundary Layer

Free Stream

So in some respects, those kids with their $1.25 kite have it better than you do! Theirkite will get up into the free stream and stay there, while you maneuver in and outof the slower Boundary Layer. Fortunately, your kite is designed for theseconditions and will do just fine. Later on, we’ll even talk about how to use the

boundary layer to produce some spectacular results.The Boundary Layer is something we can’t change and which we can actually learn

The slower ground wind and faster high air have dramatic effects on your launching,control, and flying speed.

Ground wind and turbulence can make a self launch difficult and frustrating. But youcan also use that slower wind to brake a fighter in a long dive and to perform delicateground maneuvers. If you know what to expect you can also improve your controlat higher altitudes

The point is to learn how the wind works and to use that knowledge to youradvantage.

Boundary Layer

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to work with. Turbulence is a different story. Turbulence is definitely bad news.Turbulence is generated by anything that gets in the wind’s way. Even your kitegenerates some turbulence which may effect other kites flying nearby.


The turbulent area downwind of an obstacle is called its wind shadow. All windshadows gradually disappear as you get further away from the obstacle. But notright away. The shadow from a typical tree extends several hundred yards, whilea large building can make a shadow a mile long!

The air, flowing over trees, houses and fields, acts much like a river, flowing overrocks, around bends, and through level stretches. Turbulence, in both cases,takes some time to smooth out.

The difficulty with flying in turbulent conditions is that you will experience sudden,irregular, and unpredictable wind shifts. Depending upon the severity of theturbulence, coping with these shifts will range from exhilarating to impossible. So

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the message is, in short — If you like crashing, go fly behind a tree.Strength is the other important characteristic of wind.

Since wind is never perfectly smooth, any discussion of wind strength has to referto its average strength. So when we talk about a “10 mile-per-hour wind”, understandthat the actual wind strength at any instant will vary, but that the “average” will beabout ten miles per hour.

Probably the best way to give you a brief overview of wind strength and how itwill affect your kite is with the following table. The “Beaufort Scale” was devisedby Admiral Sir Frances Beaufort of the British Navy in 1806 as a standard guide fordescribing the force of wind on sailing ships. (Note the “Beaufort Number” in the lefthand column.)

The scale has been modified for land and for kite fliers in particular. We’ve evenadded a column of information to the scale which describes the effects of the wind

Inexpensive, hand-held wind meters are also available at most kite stores and


on fighter kite flying.

The Beaufort Scale

Beaufort Number Average What to Effects on and Designation M.P.H. Look For Fighter Kites

0 Calm less than 1 No wind; smoke Stay home and readrises vertically. a good kite book.

1 Light Air 1-3 Wind direction just Challenging but possible.shown by smoke. With a good kite and light line,

you'll surprise the other fliers. 2 Light Breeze 4-7 Leaves rustle, wind Most fighters will perform fine,

felt on face, flags although you will need to workflap lazily. to stay airborne.

3 Gentle Breeze 8-12 Leaves and small twigs Perfect conditions!in constant motion; Everything flies well withflags extended. little physical strain.

4 Moderate Breeze 13-18 Raises dust and loose Control becomes difficult sincepaper; small branches you are unable to adjustmove. line tension.

5 Fresh Breeze 19-24 Branches and small Bordering on too much. The kindtrees sway; wavelets of day you can talk aboutform on inland waters. next time there is no wind.

6 Strong Breeze 25-31 Large branches move; Too forceful for most fighters.whistling in phone and Stay home and read anotherelectric wires. good kite book.

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supply outlets. But remember, they only tell you the wind speed at ground level.PICKING A FLYING SITE

There are two main things to consider when picking a place to fly: the terrain andsite safety.

TERRAIN — We know from the previous section that it’s difficult to fly well inturbulent wind. Turbulence is caused not only by obstacles, but also by the shapeof the ground itself. Let’s look at the way the wind flows over a hill.

Large size in fighter kites is not a virtue. Larger fighters can become a strain on thefingers in strong winds (10 m.p.h. or higher). Even a one-foot fighter can relieveyou of a lot of finger skin on a windy day. In addition, smaller fighters can usuallybe made a bit stiffer, a bit quicker to turn and generally more active, if that’s what youlike.

Mel GovigRandallstown, Maryland

On the windward, or “front” side of a hill, the air flow compresses and speedsup. These are good sites for flying. A hill that’s the right shape can even help smoothout some of the turbulence reaching it from farther upwind, cleaning up the flow andmaking for better flying.

The leeward, or “back” side, however, is different. Wind flowing over the crest of thehill separates and causes turbulence that can range from moderate to severedepending on the speed of the wind and the shape of the hill.

So if a little slope is good, a steep slope must be better, right? Well, not exactly.

The sharp break at the foot of a steep rise causes the wind to form a pocket of stalledand turbulent air. The break at the top causes turbulence to form just like the backside of a hill.

The front face of a hill is great for flying ... but watch out for the back side!!

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So the general rule is: Stay away from cliffs.

The perfect flying site is absolutely flat and has no obstructions for miles in anydirection. Those are the kinds of places we travel to for big kite festivals. Unfortunately,most of us have to settle for something a bit closer to home for “regular” flying.

Here’s how to make the best of one common situation:

The basic formula for turbulence is that unsteady winds will extend seven timesfurther than the height of whatever object is causing the disruption. If a tree is 100feet tall, you need to get 700 feet away to find clean or steady wind.

The best advice is to not fly downwind of trees, buildings, or geological formations.In fact, whenever possible, avoid flying downwind of any tall obstructions.

On a field bounded both upwind and down by obstructions, you’re better off flyingas close as you safely can to the downwind end of the field. Get as far away as

Clean Air

Wind Shadow

Compression and Stalled Airat base of Cliff

Turbulence here

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possible from the source of turbulence so the wind will be as “clean” as possible.SAFETY and COURTESY

You’ll be hearing a lot about safety from us, from your flying friends, from your localshop owner, and from kiteflying organizations. There’s a good reason, so payattention! A maneuverable kite is a PROJECTILE — capable of doing injury andproperty damage. You can injure others. You can do damage to your surroundings.You can hurt yourself.

Just to make sure we are absolutely clear, here are three essential safety rules:

Never fly glass or cutting line around people or unsuspecting kites.Never dive a fighter over people's heads.Never fly in electrical storms or around power lines.

The dangers of glass coated line should be obvious. Whether it's in the air or lyingslack on the ground, cutting line, by definition, is extremely hazardous. Flyingaround other kites that aren't equipt with cutting line or who aren't prepared for acutting contest is just asking for trouble. The easy and best answer is to not do it.There are plenty of good times to use glass line. Besides, it wears out quickly. Don'twaste your line by using it at the wrong time.

Here's another obvious safety tip: Stay away from electricity. Anyone who tells youthat wet flylines aren't conductive hasn’t flown in a thunderstorm. Anyone who hasflown wet line in a thunderstorm isn’t likely to be around to tell you about it!

By the way, dry flylines also conduct electricity. No clouds, no rain ... same result.And even if you don’t get zapped, remember this: The power company carries13,600 volts on lines less than two feet apart. In 1979, a kite dragged two of thoselines together and burned down $15,000,000 worth of Santa Barbara, California.

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Most important of all, watch out for people. A typical situation that develops intoa hazard looks like this: It’s a beautiful day - just you, your kite, and a perfect wind.Soon your aerobatic prowess attracts spectators. Their “oohs” and “aahs” gostraight to your head, and in no time at all, you’re putting on a real show.

Some children, attracted by the motion and bright color, decide to chase your kite.Your ego tempts you to show off by chasing them back. You dive on them and makethem fall down laughing while the crowd applauds. You think everyone is havinggreat fun. The problem is, you may not know it or believe it, but you’re in TROUBLE.

Because - no matter how good you are, no matter how good you think you are,you’re not good enough...

You turn into an instant jerk...

It doesn’t matter that you got away with it the last 100 times, or the last 1,000 timesyou tried it. It only takes once to hurt someone badly.

Teasing bystanders with a maneuverable kite is one of the greatest temptations inthe world.We've all done it - and we should all know better. Think about one of thosespars hitting someone in the eye. Think about catching an earring with your flying line.Please, just think about it. And then don't do it.

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So when you get into a situation like this - and you will — LAND. Explain the dangerto the children and their parents. People will understand. Tell them the best placeto watch is up behind the flier.

Get the area under your kite clear, then resume flying. That way you can put on adazzling show and be responsible at the same time. Your spectators will really beimpressed.

Fighters are mobile, which means they can move around the flying field in order toavoid each other. That's not the case with many large show kites. Because you areflying vertically quite a bit, it is also easy to quickly come into contact with fast movingstunters before they even realize you are there.

If you are in an area where "stationary" kites are being flown, watch out for their lines-- especially the ones that are tied down and unattended. Stunt fliers should havetheir own area and you should have your's. Fighters are more fun when flowntogether anyway.

The point is that getting angry with other fliers isn't the answer. Communication andforesight is.

To sum it all up, share the flying space. Talk to people. Be alert. Be careful. Alwaysremember the three “C’s” of responsible kiting:

Caution, Courtesy, and Common Sense.

Unless you enjoy nasty letters from lawyers and insurance companies, pay closeattention to what you’re doing just as you would when driving a car, flying a plane,or operating any other potentially hazardous device.

Some parks and beaches are now beginning to limit or even prohibit kite flying. Thisis a direct result of irresponsible fliers who monopolize space or needlessly frightenand injure people. Kites are not dangerous, but some kite flyers are.

For these reasons, liability insurance has become a major issue for kite clubs andgroups sponsoring stunt kite events. These new expenses may actually force thecancellation of some contests.

The most important thing that kite enthusiasts can do to ensure the future of the sportis concentrate on safety and courtesy.

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The best musician sounds terrible on an instrument that’s out of tune. Just as aproperly tuned musical instrument gives good sound and great pleasure, a properlytuned fighter will delight you with its ability.

The main reasons we tune kites is to adjust for wind conditions, to correct errors, andto maximize performance. In stronger or lighter winds, a kite can be tuned to increasespeed, reduce pull, or simply stay in the air.

The process is simple if you know what to look for and what to do.

Bridle Adjustments

Most fighters have a two leg bridle system. You will also see a number with three legsand occasionally a kite with four.

Two-Leg Three-Leg Four-Leg

The upper end of a two-leg bridle is usually connected to the point where thefighter’s center spine and spar cross.

On a three-leg bridle, an upper bridle line “straddles” the spine and isconnected to the cross spar at two points equal distance from the spine.

The lower line of both two and three-leg bridles is connected to the spinesomewhere in the lower half of the kite. Very few fighters have the lower bridleconnected at the bottom of the kite.

A four-leg bridle uses an additional line to spread some of the wind stress toan additional point along the center spine.

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The Bridle is the kite’s "brain". This short piece of string attached to the kite adjuststhe angle at which the kite heads into the wind. The more squarely a kite faces thewind, the faster it will go.

Dinesh Bahadur Pacific Grove, California

The purpose of these numerous connection points is to distribute the wind pressureevenly across the frame of the kite. If your bridle points are not properly placed,there’s a good chance you’ll distort the shape of your kite and its performance.

Bridle points too close:Spine ends arch back

Bridle points too far apart:Spine center bows back

Some people say the bridle lines can never be too long, but long bridles do becomea bit unwieldy at times. On the other hand, bridles that are too short make the kiteunstable.

Long bridle lines help stabilize the kite and make self-launches easier. More bridlelines, as in a three or four leg bridle also help stability. But please remember that extralong lines also make tangles easier. When the kite becomes unstable in a light wind,bridle lines can quickly become hooked around the edges of the kite and cause acrash.

Makoto Ohashi Tokyo, Japan

Adjust the Angle of Attack: As you know, when you adjust a fighter’s bridle, you’rechanging the kite’s angle of attack. This is something we talked about quite a bit inChapter Three. The angle of attack is the angle at which the kite meets the wind. Aswinds change, the angle may need to be slightly adjusted.

Adjustment is a matter of personal taste. Within a certain range, a kite will fly. Howit flies depends on where within that range it is adjusted. Some fliers like fast flyingand taut flying lines. Others like their kites to float around the sky. Most like a mixof both. It’s up to you.

The full range of adjustment will best be found through “trial until error”. So adjustthe bridle up and fly the kite. Then adjust up some more and fly again. Keep doingthat until you’re sure you’ve gone too far. Then do the same thing adjusting down.

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This way you’ll know what your kite will do through the whole range, and will be betterable to decide what you like. And if your next kite isn’t adjusted to suit you, you’ll knowwhat to do about it.

A good rule of thumb for both bridlelength and setting the angle of attackis to place your tow-point so that theupper leg of the bridle is one-half thelength of the spine (one-half of thedistance from A to C) and the lowerleg of the bridle is the same length asthe distance from the lowerconnection point to the nose of thekite (the distance from A to B).

Pull on the Loop... the Knot Locks Pull on the Line... the Loop Slides Free!




Adjusting a kite to be more responsive in heavy winds can be dangerous. The kitewill fly very fast and you will need very quick reactions to control it. The kite is morelikely to crash, especially during launches, and if you hit someone while flying faster,you may hurt them more.

Makoto Ohashi Tokyo, Japan

There are two basic ways to adjust a fighter's angle of attack. You can either shift thetow-point up or down, or shorten the lines between the tow-point and the top orbottom of the kite. As long as the bridle is long enough, the result will be the same.

Move the Tow-point: One easy wayto shift the tow point is to make amovable connection. Tie a small pieceof line, similar to your bridle line, intoa loop about two inches long. Attachthe loop to your bridle with a larksheadknot and slide it to the locations youwant to use as a tow-point.

Notice that if you put tension on the loop by pulling it open, the knot will “flip over”and lock itself in place on the bridle. Put tension on the bridle line by pulling on eitherside of the larkshead, and the knot will flip over again and allow you to slide it to anew position. Now all you need to do is attach your flying line to the loop.

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The “locking loop” is one of the neatest tricks we’ve ever learned in kiting. Try it afew times and you’ll quickly see that it is a useful way of adjusting the tow-point onalmost any kite.

Small adjustments of the tow-point position on the bridle can greatly change afighter’s performance. This adjustment is made to suit the flier and the performancethey want, rather than to suit the wind strength.

Set a higher tow-point and your kite will spin faster and quicker; too high and it willbe hard to control or not track well. Set a lower tow-point for a more stable flight andgood tracking; too low and the kite will not respond well or fly slower.

Martyn LawrenceGwynedd, Wales, United Kingdom

Change Bridle Line Length: Often, a fighter will come with a permanent tow-pointalready tied in the bridle. In order to adjust these types of kites, you need to changethe length of either the upper or lower bridle lines.

Simply untie the knot that attaches the bridle to the kite. Take in a little line and retiethe knot. If there is extra line available, you can also let out the bridle to makeadjustments.

A good knot that can be quickly untiedor pulled snug after the adjustmentmakes this job much easier.

Making the top leg shorter has thesame effect as moving the tow-pointup. Making the bottom leg shorter islike moving the tow-point down.

On a two-leg bridle, you can adjusteither end of the line. On a three-legbridle, you will probably need to focuson taking in or letting out the lower end.Usually, a little extra line will beavailable.

A pilot should always handle the control line with a gentle touch. When you beginexperimenting, you must adjust the bridle to a beginner’s touch. Once you have goodcontrol, readjust the bridle, making it more sensitive and fine for a delightful flight. Ioften readjust the bridle for my son so that he can get a correct flight control and enjoyhis flying time without frustration.

Philippe GallotParis, France

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Effect of Adjustments: Adjusting the attack angle up will point the nose of the kitemore into the wind, letting some of the wind pressure slide off the sail. Moving it down

allows the sail to catch more wind.

In general, when the wind getsSTRONGER, you’ll need to movethe tow-point up or shorten the toppart of the bridle line. We callmoving the tow-point up “settingheavier” because it’s for heavierwind.

If the wind gets LIGHTER, you’llneed to move the tow-point downor shorten the lower part of thebridle line. We call moving the

tow-point down, “setting lighter”.

Contrary to advice I’ve heard elsewhere, you lower the bridle for higher wind speedsrather than raise it. The classic bridle adjustment for high winds is made in order toreduce stress on the sail and frame - at the cost of performance. If you’re moreinterested in performance than breakage, then your adjustment will be just theopposite of the classic.

Mel Govig Randallstown, Maryland

Remember, bridle adjustments are a matter of personal taste. Don’t be afraid toexperiment!

Balancing the Kite

In Chapter Three, we discussed the importance of balance in fighter constructionand flying. The kite should be symmetrical in frame and shape, evenly weighted fromside to side, and have all sail area evenly distributed. So when we say balanced, we


Check the kite’s balance regularlybefore launching. Remember thatcrashes can effect the balance andmay even have moved your tow-point.

Hold it by the bridle tow-point and lookto see if it leans to one side or another.You'll be able to tell if there's a seriousproblem.

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You can also check your balance during flight. A poorly balanced kite has a tendencyto dive on the heavy side or loop in circles no matter how much tension you put onthe line. The kite should not lean to either side and should fly free and straight withlittle slack on the line.

A properly balanced fighter will turn left or counter-clockwise when flown to the rightof the wind. It will also turn right or clockwise when flown to the left of the wind. Ifyou're properly tuned, you should with practice, be able to turn figure eights directlydown wind.

Ric MerrySeattle, Washington

Adjusting a fighter's balance depends on how the kite was constructed. Two legbridles are different from three leg bridles. You can also try adding or shifting weighton the kite to correct problems. Let's take a more in-depth look at each of theseapproaches.

Two Leg Bridles: One effective method of adjusting the balance of a kite with a twoleg bridle is to fine tune the bridle connection knots. Over time, the knots may haveslipped around the kite's spine and effected sail distribution. This may seem like aminor change, but if the knots are not centered, you'll see the results when the kitegoes into the air.

If the kite leans to the right during flight,move the knot to the left. If the kite leansto the left, shift the knot to the right. Testfly the kite as you move the knot instages. Significant balance changes canbe achieved with only minor changes inthe knot’s position.

If this doesn’t correct the kite's overallbalance, try the same procedure on thebottom bridle connection. When you findthe best position, secure it with cleartape. Be sure you don't actually cover theknot. You may need to untie it later.

A properly tuned kite will perform a figure eight overhead in a space of three or fourfeet. For fastest performance, move the bridle point up as high as you can while stillmaintaining direction and control. The ideal setting for wind conditions allows the kiteto track instantly when you retrieve line and to turn immediately when you give slack.

A well tuned kite can be flown from side to side, parallel to the ground, without losingor gaining altitude.

Joel ScholtzAustin, Texas

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Three Leg Bridles: The main reason for using a three leg bridle in the first place isto spread the bridle load and balance the kite better.

If the kite is out of balance, you need tomake small changes where the lower lineconnects to the upper line. Usually, thelines are connected with a larkshead knot.Remember the “locking loop”? Simplyshift the connection point and tighten upthe knot.

If the kite leans to the right during flight,move the knot to the left. If the kite leansto the left, shift the knot to the right. Testfly the kite as you move the knot in stages.

Remember, significant balance changes can be achieved with only minor changesin the knot’s position.

Larkshead and moveable knots are much easier to handle if you rub themoccasionally with bees wax. A good wax coating prevents slippage and tangles. Picksome up at a kite store, fabric store -- or from a nearby bee hive.

Weight Shifts: A final approach to correcting balance problems is to add adhesivetape or small pieces of fabric to the edges of the kite. Maybe you’ve already donethis while making repairs and suddenly find the kite out of balance. Remember, exactbalance is important, so if you make repairs to one side of the fighter, compensateby adding tape or fabric to the other side as well.

There are all kinds of tricks you can use to adjust an unbalanced kite. Some fliersattach paper-clips to the leading edge. You can also use putty or even chewing gumalong the center spine.

My favorite technique is to slide a piece of vinyl tubing over the cross-spar. The tubeshould be about two inches long and roughly the diameter of the spar so that it fitssnugly. Simply slide the tube to the appropriate place on the spar to balance the kite.Usually, I cut the tube into a spiral shape, like a cork-screw, so that I can easily snapit on or off.

Carl Crowell Portland,Oregon

If your fighter continues to lean, one simple solution is to put a tail on the kite toprovide drag and keep the nose pointed up. You aren’t necessarily limited to addingtail to the base of the kite, either. Tails and streamers can be attached to manydifferent parts of the kite.

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If a kite tends to fly or turn to one side and other adjustments have failed, check thatyour spine is straight down the center of the sail cover. Adjustments are easy. If thekite favors flying to the right, carefully massage the spine so it lays more to the leftside of the sail cover.

Martyn LawrenceGwynedd, Wales, United Kingdom

Hold the kite so that the spine is facing towardyou. Bend the spine outward, using your thumbsto concentrate pressure at the desired point.

Of course, the more tail you add, the slower your fighter will fly and the less likelyit will be to spin or move freely. A well balanced kite which is easy to maneuver andcontrol is your primary goal.

If you fly near the beach, you should probably check your spar pockets for sand ona regular basis. It's simple but true: sand in your pockets will unbalance the kite. Andtoo much sand in your spine pockets will make the kite spin real fast!

Ric MerrySeattle, Washington

Bowing the Kite

Most fighters come equipped with a bowed or bent center spine. Sometimes a long,smooth arch is centered in the middle of the spine. More often, a sharp angle isconstructed between the nose and the cross spar.

A bow in the center spine provides just enough flex or give in the spine to help itwithstand Kamikaze crashes. More important, it creates a slight head-to-tail dihedralwhich increases maneuverability in low winds. That dihedral will also make selflaunches much easier.

It’s probably a good idea to check the shape of your center spine before each flight.If necessary, you can gently flex it to add shape. Just remember to be careful. Toomuch flex and you'll break your kite!

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With proper flex in the spine, a fighter’s sail will stretch across the frame and moreevenly balance the kite. Launching will become much easier. A bowed spine is usefulfor increasing speed and maneuverability.

If your center spine breaks at some point, be sure and replace it with comparablematerials, shaped with a similar arch or angle. You might also experiment withchanging the shape or angle of the bow.

A kite that leans to one side can sometimes be corrected if the cross-spar isremovable. Try reversing it in its pockets - a logical action that works for me only 50%of the time. Also try hand massaging the cross-spar to try and equalize the flex orbow in them.

Mel Govig Randallstown, Maryland

Try substituting spines that have beenprepared for this purpose. Both naturaland synthetic materials can be shapedeither by holding them over aconcentrated steam source, bending,and drying, or by carefully forming themover a heat source.

One of the more unusual tricks we’ve seen for shaping spars, is to place them in amicrowave oven. Set the temperature for high and the timer to one minute. When thetimer goes off, quickly but carefully shape the hot wood.

This is something you may want to try when the person in charge of the kitchen isn’thome. It wouldn’t hurt to keep a couple of old pot-holders handy either. The reasonthe wood bends is because it is HOT.

The traditional Indian method of spine shaping is to bend the kite over your head.

You think we’re making this up, right?

It’s true. Indian Fighter fliers often tune their kites by shaping them in this way. Putthe kite on your head (rib side down) so that you are contacting it on the center spine,just below the cross piece.

Place both palms on top of the kite and press gently on the spine, curving the kitelightly against the sides of your head. The results are increased bow in the centerspine, added stretch to the sail, and proper placement of the spine in the center ofthe kite.

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Try it -- it really works.

Besides, this technique will also helpkeep you dry on rainy days...

The variety of different ways a fighter can be flown and adjusted to differentperformance, right down to design modifications in proportion, sail shape, andsparing, allows for a lot of self expression in all aspects of the kite. This makes thefighter the most personal of all kites.

Martyn LawrenceGwynedd, Wales, United Kingdom


The final piece of advice we have on tuning will probably be a bit frustrating if youare new to all of this. It's a process we call "T.L.A.R.".

With experience, there are certain things you will learn to recognize. If a kite isn'tflying the way it should, you will become able to look at a bridle or a spar and knowinstinctively what is wrong. We can't explain how you will know -- you'll just know.You'll move a connection a fraction of an inch or gently flex a spar, and say "TLAR-- That Looks About Right!".

And of course, the kite will fly just fine.

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Local kite shops should be able to satisfy your fighter kite needs. But at some pointyou may wish to try your hand at making your own.There are hundreds of greatdesigns out there. In Chapter Six, we’re going to show you one of them.

These instructions detail how to make a fabric fighter. It goes without saying that youcan make the same kite from plastic or paper and use adhesive tape instead ofsewing. Such simple kites are both cheaper and faster. And they fly great!

Something more important, however, is that paper and plastic kites provide you withthe opportunity to experiment with designs. You can make changes, or if a designisn't successful, you can simply throw the sail away and start over.

Don't rule out paper or plastic kites. The great majority of fliers around the world flythem.


Sail: 18" square of crisp ripstop nylon, or18" square of soft cloth-like Tyvek paper

Cross Spar: 3/32" diameter x 36" long flexible fiberglass rodCenter Spine: 4 1/8" x 1/4" x 20" pine or cedar rod, or

1/4" x 20" bamboo strip, or1/4" x 20" wood dowel

Bridle: 4-5' of 20 pound test woven Dacron linePockets & Casings: 1 1/4" x 18" of stiff nylon tape or fabric

Construction Steps

Bend the Spine: Earlier we talked about the importance of bending the center spine.A bow of around fifteen degrees is usually enough to provide the slight head-to-taildihedral that you need for stability and control in light winds.

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Place the arch or angle about four inches from the end of the spine. This willput it between the nose and the cross spar connection point.

Hold the spine over a concentrated steam source and slowly begin to shapeit. Remember to be careful. Steam is hot! We explained how to do this in thelast chapter so you might want to go back for a quick review.

After the spine has cooled, check it again for shaping.

The true hard core finatics continue to prefer a bamboo spine because of its natural,"built-in" energy and its ability to take punishment without breaking. Fiberglass justdoesn't have enough "soul" for a good spine. Some fliers are starting to laminatewoods together with bamboo for a stronger and more durable spine.

Ric MerrySeattle, Washington








For a really first class spine, you may want to try laminating a piece of spruce or cedarto a strip of bamboo. Cut small slices across the wood so it will bend more easily.Then shape the spine and glue it to the bamboo. The result will be a good lookingspine which is both stronger and stiffer.


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Fold, Cut, and Hem Sail: The finished sail is actually wider than it is tall. Sincebalance is extremely important, the easiest way to cut the sail is to fold it and thenmake all cuts at one time.

Fold your sail material in half diagonally. Then fold it again into quarters.

Mark one folded edge 10 1/2 inches from the center corner. Mark the otheredge 12 1/2 inches from the corner.

Now, using a straight metal edge and a sharp knife or hot-cutter, slice throughall four layers with a single cut.







18" 18"

Unfold the sail and sew a 1/4 inch hem around all four sides. While the centerfold is still visible, mark the points for bridle attachments. The two-point bridlewill be connected 4 1/2 inches from the nose, and 4 1/4 inches from the tail.

This is a good time to add any decoration or applique art to the sail.

Attach Spar Pockets and Casings: The cross spar is connected by pockets at theoutside corners of the fighter, and by casings which help hold it in place and maintaina proper flex. Remember to put them on the back of the sail.

Since these fittings will absorb most of the stresses on the kite, it is important to makethem of strong, tightly woven material, and to sew them securely in place. Use a hotknife to cut the fabric or carefully seal the edges near an open flame to preventfraying later.

Cut two triangular spar tip pockets. Thesetriangles should be 1 1/4 inches wideand 1 1/2 inches tall.

Stitch the center of each pocket triangleto the outside edges of the sail. Trianglesshould be “pointing” toward the nose ofthe kite. (Remember that the sail is widerthan it is tall. Don’t put the spar pocketson the nose and tail by mistake!)





Sail Cutting

Spar Pockets

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Now fold the triangle in half andsew the two open edgestogether. This is an importantstress point on the kite so youshould use several layers ofstitches.

Spar casings should be attached next.

Cut two casing rectangles offabric, 2 inches long and 3/4 inchwide.

Attach these casings along theleading edge, 5 inches from theoutside corners of the kite. Usetwo rows of stitches so that later,the spar can be inserted throughhe casing.

Attach Spine Pockets: Spine pockets are quite similar to the spar pockets andcasings.

Cut two pocket rectangles of fabric, 2inches long and 3/4 inch wide.

Fold the rectangle so that the top edge is1/4 inch below the bottom edge. Place thefold in the nose or tail of the kite and stitcharound the other three edges so thatpockets are created with the open ends

facing toward each other.Insert Spar and Spine: As we said before, the spar and spine are attached to thesail using the pockets and casings.

Insert the top of the spine into the pocket at the nose of the kite. (Rememberthat the top of the spine is the end that has been bowed.) Now insert thebottom of the spine into the pocket at the tail of the kite. To do this, you mayneed to carefully arch the spine. Place the nose on the ground and carefullyput pressure on the spine to bend it out and away from the sail. You shouldnow be able to slide the spine into the tail pocket.

Slide the end of the flexible cross spar under the spine and through both ofthe casings. Then insert the ends into the outside corner pockets. Note thatthe center of the spar is located at the upper bridle point. When we attach the

Sew the Spar PocketClosed

Spar Casings

Placed betweenthe Spar Pockets and the Nose

Open Ends Facing Center of Kite

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bridle line, this cross point will be secured with a knot.

With the spar and spine attached, the fighter’s sail should be stretched smooth and

taut. If the spar is too long, some minor trimming may be required.

To make your kite much more compact for storage or traveling, you can cut the long,flexible cross spar in half and connect a one inch ferrule to one end. Remember tocut the spar exactly in half to maintain overall balance.

Use brass tubing from a model shop. Glue the ferrule to one of the center-facing endsof the spar. The other half slips into place for assembly and is held captive by thetension of the kite.

Bud Koger

Bellevue, Washington

Attach Two-Leg Bridle: The ends of a two-leg bridle are passed through the frontof the sail and tied directly to the center spine. You should have already marked theconnection points, 4 1/2 inches from the nose, and 4 1/4 inches from the tail. Anembroidery needle makes the job easier.

For a more durable kite, sew small pieces of reinforcing fabric to the sail at thesebridle points. Adhesive ripstop tape also works well.

The total length of the bridle is 30 inches. The upper leg of the bridle will be tiedaround both the spine and cross spar.

Sew the Spar PocketClosed


Optional Three-Leg Bridle: A three point bridle will improve the stability of yourfighter and allow you to adjust balance more effectively. The three-leg bridle is madefrom a 16 inch Main Line and a 12 inch “Yoke” Line.

Measure 1 1/4 inches out on each side of your top bridle point. That’s thepoint, 4 1/2 inches from the nose, that we marked earlier. Pass the ends ofthe Yoke Line through the front of the sail at these two new bridle points and

You can improve the strength of your knots and prevent fraying by dabbing each ofthem with a drop of Super Glue. Just remember not to glue any movable knots that

you may need to adjust later.

To finish off the bridle, take a separate piece ofline about 4 inches long and tie it into a loop.Attach the loop to the bridle with a larksheadknot. We call this loop a movable tow-point.Back in Chapter Five, we explained how to makethis tow-point loop and adjust it for maximum

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tie them to the cross spar.

Tie a two inch loop in one end of the MainLine. Attach this end of the Main Line tothe Yoke Line using a larkshead knot.We will call this sliding knot the “YokePoint”.

Pass the other end of the Main Linethrough the front of the sail at the bottombridle point and tie it to the center spine.You can now adjust the balance of yourfighter by moving the Yoke Point.

Heavy winds or regular flying may have a tendency to pull the ends of the Yoke Linecloser together. This will throw the balance of the kite off and eventually will resultin tears to your sail.

You can prevent this problem by adding “spreader bumps” to the cross spar wherethe Yoke Line attaches. Simply wrap several turns of thread or kite line around thespar, tie off the line, and then coat these “bumps” with glue.

Congratulations! Your kite is now finished.

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Selecting the Right Line

Some fighter kites come with line included. Most do not. Sooner or later, however,you’ll probably end up buying more line, either because the original line broke,because you want more variety, or because you want to experiment with differenttypes of line handling.

Fighter kites will fly on almost any old “kite string”. As you might expect, properhandling takes something a bit more specialized. Here are a few things to think aboutwhen you go line shopping:

Strength - Fighters require lighter line than most kites and a line that’s tooheavy will weigh-down an otherwise active kite. On the other hand, biggerkites and stronger winds also require relatively stronger line.

Stretch - In order to control your kite, you need to be able to send it signals.But if you pull on the line and that signal is “absorbed” by line stretch, thenyou won’t have much control. So the less your line stretches when you pull,the more precise your control will be.

Diameter - Diameter makes drag, and drag makes sag. Sag degradescontrol. And here’s a sad fact of life, aerodynamically speaking:

Since round objects produce more drag for their thickness than streamlinedones, the line can actually produce more drag than the kite itself!

Increased line drag shows up generally in lower performance such as slowerkite speeds or higher wind requirements

If the line diameter doubles ... the drag increases four times!

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Handling - Thin or abrasive lines sliding through your fingers can be toughon your hands. Cutting line can be downright destructive.

Slippery lines are, by definition, hard to hang onto. Wax coated lines, on theother hand, are easy to grip quickly. When you go shopping for line,remember what you plan to be doing with it.

Durability and Cost - Some types of line last longer. Others will fray or wearfaster depending on the conditions they’re used in. Continued exposure tothe sun can also reduce a line’s strength.

You’ll find a tremendous variation in the cost of lines available. Generally, ifyou’re going to destroy line quickly in a cutting contest, use somethinginexpensive. Otherwise look for durable line which is easy to handle.

Color - Flying lines are now available in a variety of different colors. Colorwon’t effect your flying but it may effect your satisfaction and state of mind.It may also help you sort out your own line in a crowded sky or messy tangle.

The ideal flying line would have zero stretch for responsiveness, be lightweight, bestrong and durable to resist breakage, and cost next to nothing. And to make thingseven more difficult, it would be as thin as possible to minimize wind resistance, butalso thick enough to be easily handled. What that means is that the “ideal” line isn’tout there yet. But there are some alternatives that come close.

If you keep your eyes open, you'll find a lot of good lines for fighter flying. I like surgicalsuture thread which is excellent for small kites and almost essential on light winddays. It's strong and can be waxed to reduce tangles and increase control. Carpetthread is another readily available alternative.

Ric MerrySeattle, Washington

Here is an overview on some basic types of commercial flying lines and someobservations about their suitability for fighter flying.

Waxed Linen Line - This may be the best option in terms of handling, cost, and safety. Stiffenough to avoid tangles, it is still thin enough to minimize drag. The wax coating is also amajor plus for quickly pulling in line. Twisted carpet thread is another good and lessexpensive option, but it lacks the benefits of a wax coating.

Cotton and Nylon - Less expensive but not necessarily the best for fighter flying. Nylon willstretch like a rubber band and many cotton lines, when you can find them, aren’t much better.Twists, tangles and burns on you fingers and palms are also a problem with thinner lines.Specially made glazed cotton line is often used in Asia and India because it is broad enoughto not cause as many burns.

Stunt Kite Line - Special lines like Spectratm and Kevlartm which were developed for stuntkite flying might initially appear useful for fighters as well. They are strong and are engineeredfor minimal stretch. Of course, any stunt flier will also tell you that they are pretty darnedexpensive and seldom come in lengths over 300 feet. The biggest problem, however, is thatmost are so thin and slippery that they may cut your hands.

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You cannot effectively fly fighters wearing gloves, so if you use cutting line, beprepared to shed a little blood. In India, cut fingers are accepted as part of the game.Cuts heal “in a week or so”, we are assured by master fliers.

Mel Govig Randallstown, Maryland

Caution cannot be over emphasized when cutting line is in the air or on the ground.Be absolutely certain that spectators are off the field, and that non-combatant kitesare not in the fighting area. Flying glass line among other kites - even among otherfighters - is a quick and easy way to become quite unpopular. Make sure thateveryone involved understands and agrees before you begin any “cutting combat”.

In addition to cutting down other kites, glass line can also quickly cut your hands ifyou aren’t careful. Experienced fliers often coat their fingers with tape so that theycan maintain tension and control without sustaining unnecessary injuries.

My favorite line is waxed polyester/cotton thread Number 12 that has been flown andhandled a fair bit.

Waxed line is very tacky when new and doesn’t run out smoothly. But when excesswax has rubbed off, you are left with a line with no fuzzy bits, minimum drag for itssize, and that you can grip easily with no string burns.

Martyn LawrenceGwynedd, Wales, United Kingdom

Cutting Line - Glass coated line is traditionally made by coating string in a paste made frompowdered or ground bottle glass and wheat-flour glue. Egg whites and starch can be usedinstead of glue. According to Indian legend, wealthy fighters mixed diamond dust into theircutting paste.

Two kinds of cutting line are produced in India - single coat and double coat. The single-coated line cuts only from one direction, while the double-coated line will cut from eitherdirection. This means you can pull to slice or let out line to cut by force. Designed to be sharpand abrasive, the line requires special precautions and special handling.

Glass line isn’t dangerous if you handle it right. Just remember to pull in or let out linehand-over-hand. Don’t let it slide through your fingers. That’s how you get cut.

I use glass which has been ground up and then strained through an old sock. Thatway, you get only glass powder and not larger pieces. The powder can then beattached to your line using glue or egg whites for a good, stiff finish.

Al ChangHonolulu, Hawaii

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To avoid cuts, an easy thing to do is simplylimit the amount of cutting line to a smallsection up near the kite. You can then flyand control the fighter on “regular” line.

Not only is more skill needed to makecontact on the shorter piece of coated line,but the hands are also spared the injuriescaused by handling the cutting surface.

Besides, frequent contact with the line wears the glass coating off and makes it lesseffective. You’ll probably want to replace any “used” portions of your line after oneor two good flights. Using smaller pieces means that you won’t wear out your entireline as quickly.

Another important thing to remember is to try and keep your line dry. The glue andglass mixture “melts” when wet and a large spool left in the rain will quickly becomea sticky mess.

Don’t leave line unattended on the ground, and remember to pick up any stray orloose pieces you may have discarded. Leaving anything behind on the field is a badidea, but cutting line can be particularly dangerous. Coated line is often hard to seeand can easily cut the legs of people - especially children - and animals in the area.

Cutting line can be great and challenging fun. Improperly or carelessly used, it canalso be extremely dangerous to you and to others. Be careful.

Line Weight

Because of the effects of gravity and drag, choosing the right weight line is almostalways the difference between success and failure. Line that’s too light will break andyou may lose your kite. Line that’s too heavy will keep the kite from performing welland may actually keep it from getting into the air at all.

The best weight of line for a given situation depends on the size and type of kite used,the wind, the number of knots in the line, and on the length you plan to use.Recommendations vary from 10 to 30 pound breaking strength. The best answer isto carry a number of lines for use with different kites and wind conditions. Use thelightest and thinnest possible line that will support your kite in different circumstancesfor maximum performance.

When you shop for line, try the breaking strength on a short piece. The line shouldbreak before it hurts your hand. I am known in several shops in Paris for fiddling withthe spools and breaking line. You will certainly get some remarks and be asked whyyou are doing this. Be prepared with your answers!

Philippe GallotParis, France

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Line weight and length are usually printed on the packaging. Don’t forget to writethese figures on your spool or reel before you throw the packaging away. Some flierseven keep track of the age of their lines since regular use and even exposure tosunlight can wear them out. You can try and remember mentally, but with severalsets of line in your collection, it can become a bit confusing. Better to use that brainpower learning flying skills than memorizing fly line statistics...

Spools and Reels

Proper line handling depends on a good, effective spool or reel. Different types ofkite flying require different types of winders. Fighter flying is no exception.

To fly fighters well, you need a device which will hold a good amount of lineand allow you to feed that line out quickly without drag or tension which willupset your control of the kite.

Since you will usually finish your flight with a fair amount of line loose on theground, you also need a winder which will collect slack line quickly.

Fighter kite fliers have developed several devices which seem to work pretty well.

The most important quality of a good (Indian) spool is to pay out the line as quicklyas possible without any friction. A well balanced spool, heavy and easy to spin, iscrucial in order to give speed and good recovery of the feeding line. From a technicalpoint of view, the greater the mass, the better the rotation. Rotation is acceleratedwith the weight, like a type of fly wheel.

Philippe GallotParis, France

When you’re ready to retrieve yourline, you place one handle in thecrook of your elbow and quickly rotatethe opposite handle while guidingthe line with your free hand.Thousands of feet of line can becollected in just a few minutes.

Indian Spools: The most common linedevices for fighter flying are thetraditional Indian spools made from arevolving barrel and two long handles.When you're flying, you place onehandle vertically into the ground so thatthe line rolls off quickly and smoothly.This frees both hands to work the line.

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Halo Winders: Halo winders are a morecontemporary winding device. Those thatare best suited for fighter flying have anextended lip on one side that allows theline to roll off smoothly.

To recover slack line, simply hold the haloin one hand and wind with the other.

Japanese and Korean Spools: These winders look a bit like Indian Spoolsexcept that they only have one handle. Rather than place the spool on theground and manipulate the line with both hands, spool handlers control theline with one hand and deftly spin the winder with the other. They grasp thehandle in their palm and rotate the barrel with their thumb.

Halo Winder

Japanese spools are constructed with long handles. Usually the entire machine isfinely crafted and decorated.

There are several different models of spools, each with different diameters. Thelarger the diameter you use, the more line you can maneuver. One turn of the spoolwill control a large length of line.

Makoto Ohashi Tokyo, Japan

This type of flying is incredibly effective and amazing to watch. An expertusing a Japanese or Korean spool is seldom beaten in competition.

Baskets: Some fliers carry large, openbaskets suspended from a strap overtheir shoulders. The basket hangs at theirwaistline and collects line as it is pulled in.In this way, a flier can move about the fieldwithout leaving a lot of line trailing behind.Tangles are minimized and as soon asthey bring the fighter down, they arepacked up and ready to go.

A flier with a fighting line basket looks a little odd, but you can’t argue withsuccess.

Whatever system you use, it’s a good idea to practice unwinding and winding lineto get the feeling of how it should work.

Generally, it’s much easier to recover line which is laid out loose on the ground ratherthan try to collect taut line stretched out in the sky between you and your kite.Remember, winding in creates line tension which will effect kite performance. Somewinders also have weaker cores which can collapse or be crushed by the cumulativepressure of many line wraps under tension.

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Another important thing to remember, is todisconnect the kite before retrieving your line.Use this as an opportunity to remove as manytwists and tangles as possible. Fighter flyingnecessarily involves putting hundreds of twistsin the line. At some point, you need to take thosetwists out in order to avoid tangles and minimizestretch.

Simply hold the line between your fingers as youwind in and “push” the twists toward the end. Bythe time you finish collecting all your line, youwill have “squeezed” out most of the twists.

Attaching the Flying Line

Many fliers use snap swivels or locks to attach the flying line to their kite bridle. Snapswivels make attachment and removal easy, and extend the life of the line byreducing twists.

You can also attach your kite using a quick-release knot.

The kite is attached securely to the bridle byholding the loop and pulling tight on the flyingend of the line. To untie the line, simply pull onthe lose end.

Practice using this knot, not only for attachingflylines, but also for bridle line adjustments. It'sa convenient and easy way to connect -- anddisconnect lines.

Flyline Troubleshooting

There are several things you can do to avoid flyline trouble. With proper care andattention, your fighting line will give you long and faithful service.

Avoid Tangles: The most common problem and by far the most aggravating, isgetting your flyline all tangled up. A badly tangled line, covered with wax or worseyet, glass coating, can take hours to undo and can spoil your whole day. It’s far betterto use some caution and stay clear of tangles in the first place.

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When retrieving line, lay it at you feet in big, random loops. You don’t need to pileit in a nice tight little circle. In fact, if you have room, move around a little as you pullin large amounts of line.

If you do end up in a tangle, don't pull on the ends of the line. That only tightens theknots! Instead, pull on the loops to loosen a snarl.

When you begin to replace the line on your winder, it sometimes makes sense to“reverse” the line. Start with the end that was closest to the kite and make a new pilewith the loose end at the bottom. That way, when you start using your winder, you’llbe retrieving line from the top of the pile rather than the bottom.

Keep “Twist” Out of the Line: Twist in the line is bad for two reasons. First, it coilsthe line like a spring. That lets it stretch more, making control worse when you fly.

Secondly, it encourages tangles whenever the lines are slack. You can demonstratethis yourself — Stretch a piece of line between your hands and roll some twist in oneend with your fingers. Now release the tension on the line by moving your handscloser together. Watch the lines tangle around themselves!

As we said earlier, twisting the line is a fundamental part of fighter kite flying. Butonce your line gets badly twisted, it will try to tangle at every opportunity. You mayreach for slack line while flying and find it unusable. Winding up will be much moredifficult, And when your lines becomes tangled, it will be much harder to undo.

The easiest way minimize twist in your line is to use a good snap swivel while flyingand to wind up carefully after each use. Squeeze the line between your fingers asyou wind and push the twist out at the loose end.

Watch for Fraying: The more you drag your line across rocks or sharp objects, themore often you cross lines with other fliers, the more trees you eat, the quicker yourline will fray. You can prolong the life of your flyline considerably just by beingcareful.

Be particularly careful about fraying close to the end of the line. This is one placethat wear and tear tends to build up. Inspect your line occasionally, and if you seesignificant fraying, cut the ends off. You’ll break fewer lines in the air that way.

Minimize Knots: Knots are weak points in your line. Some studies report that a knotwill reduce the strength of your line by as much as 60%! And as if that weren’t badenough, think about what happens to your line during a kite fight. Lines slide againsteach other and a knot provides a good “stopper” for your opponent’s line to makesteady contact and cut through.

The same thing happens on the ground when you try to wind up slack line. Knotsprevent the smooth winding of line and together with twist, help tangle your gear.

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Disconnect the kite and swivel from the line. Pull the line straight out of the tree. Thenreconnect the kite and fly some more.

Now we’re not saying that you should never tie a knot in your line. Knots are essential- especially if you want to place a short piece of cutting line into your main line. Youalso don’t need to throw away a perfectly good flyline just because it got cut in themiddle. But generally speaking, too many knots and too many twists are not good.Avoid using any overly twisted and knotted pieces. Damaged parts of the line shouldbe removed.

Look Out for Obstacles: Finally, a word or two about kite obstacles.

We’ve seen fliers do some pretty amazing things to try and get their lines out of atree. As with many other problems, the right way is simple if you think about it.

If the kite lands in the top of the tree, try pulling it out with the line. Even on lighterlines, your equipment will take a pretty hard pull before something breaks. And evenif something does break, it’s often better to lose a few yards of line than to have toclimb a tree.

People are another kind of “obstacle” you should be careful of. Because fighters aremaneuverable, they can take up quite a bit of air space and, eventually, will comein contact with other kites and their lines.

The simplest way to enjoy yourself safely is to stay away from other fliers. If you areusing glass coated line, this is absolutely essential. Make sure you’re far enoughapart that your lines can’t cross. Limit yourself to portions of the sky that aren’t socongested. That way, you’ll never have to worry about how to untangle your lines orexplaining to someone that you really didn’t mean to cut their kite down.

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Of course, it takes a lot of space to fit very many fliers onto a field this way, and manyfields are just too small. If you are flying with friends, you don’t get to see much ofeach other. And besides, you may wander off so far that you won’t be able to hearthem call when lunch is ready.

For these and many other reasons, fighter fliers tend to cluster together. That’s partof the fun. But if two fliers cross lines while standing some distance apart, they arealmost always guaranteed to tangle and crash. The two lines “wind each other up”and both kites go out of control.

If your line crosses someone else’s, the easiest way to fix things is to get right alongside them and unwrap the lines. Cooperate! Communicate!! Flying with other peopleis always more fun anyway. Besides, before you know it, you’ll be engaging inimpromptu contests and battles that lead to more formal competitions and all thewonderful new levels of aerial excitement that they offer.

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If you enjoy the skills and drama of fighter kite combat, you’re going to love RokkakuBattles.

What is a Rokkaku?

The Rokkaku (pronounced roke-cock-coo)is a traditional Japanese bowed kite design.A basic hexagon in shape, it features sixcorners, a long center spine, and two crossspars. The bridle connects at four or morepoints, depending on the size of the kite orthe engineering skills of the kite maker.

Here is a basic Japanese language lesson. The word for six is “rok”. The word fora traditional square, rectangular, or cornered kite is “kaku”. Rokkaku, very simplythen, means “six-sided kite”.

Makoto OhashiTokyo, Japan

Structurally, the Rokkaku is quite simple. The large uninterrupted kite sail is also anideal “canvas” for kite artists to applique or paint wonderful designs. However, it isthe maneuverability of this kite and the theatrics of Rokkaku contests which haveencouraged its great popularity in recent years.

Rokkaku flying is, in many ways, similar to the handling of other fighter kites. “Roks”don’t spin but they are clearly maneuverable. Maintain line tension and the kite willmove in the direction it is pointed. Pull on the line, it will move faster. Slacken the lineand the kite will become unstable enough to establish a new flying direction.

Based on these simple fighter principles, the Japanese have used the Rokkaku forcenturies in small, large, and enormous scale kite battles. Individuals, teams, andeven whole communities gather together to pit their kites, their flying skills andartistry, and their enthusiasm against other teams.

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The object is to knock or cut other kites from the sky, but no clear winners are everestablished among the traditionally costumed fliers. Supported by coaches,cheerleaders, and even marching bands, the point is to have fun. No one who haswitnessed a traditional Japanese kite battle would doubt that they are entirelysuccessful in that aim.

Not all Japanese kite contests utilize the six cornered Rokkaku. Most, in fact, fly fourcornered kites made in a variety of square and rectangular shapes. But it is theRokkaku that has captured the imagination of the West. Forms of the traditionalRokkaku Battle have spread far beyond the shores of Japan and are regularly heldnow in North America, Europe, and the South Pacific.

If kiting is a bastion for the Renaissance person, then Rokkaku kite team fightingrepresents it best because it combines art, knowledge and athletics.

You need teamwork and athletic prowess to survive a long fight. You also need theknowledge to build, fly and fight these kites. And you want the kite to be beautiful.If any one of these things gets out of balance, you don’t have a really successful andsatisfied team.

Rick Kinnaird Jr.Bethesda, Maryland

Combat Fundamentals

Western style Rokkaku “battles” are usually organized for either individuals orteams. The size of the kites is specified within certain ranges, only certain types offlying line are allowed, and flying is limited to a designated area for safety.

On a given signal, all kites are launched. Then a second signal is given and the kites“engage”.

The object is to ground other kites using either your line, your kite, or the wind. Onceyour kite is cut or touches the ground for any reason, you are out.

An important difference between standard kite fighting and Rokkaku contests is thatRokkaku fighters move around the field. They move around the field a lot. Positioningis almost everything in a battle.

There are three basic techniques for grounding an opponent’s kite. The mosteffective strategy may combine all three tactics.

Cutting: Glass coated line is not allowed in Rokkaku battles. But that doesn’tmean that you can’t cut an opponent’s line. Any experienced kite flier knowsthat flying lines can easily slice through each other given the propercircumstances. In a Rok battle, it’s your job to create those circumstances.

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When two lines come in contact,the one moving the fastest willcut, melt, or burn through theother. The object is to concentratethe friction in one particular pointon an opposing line. Knots orbridle tow-points makeconvenient “stoppers” but withpractice, you can attack the lineat any point.

By maneuvering your kite, you can climb up from under an opponent or dropdown from above. A more common tactic is to engage from the side andattempt to “slice”. Often you will see teams methodically pumping in an effortto saw through an opponent's line.

Watch out for sugar-coated line. It’s not as effective as glass line although it doestaste better! We have seen several occurrences of sugar line being used in Britainwith one team winning rather consistently. They soon stopped when they becameaware of judges going round tasting flying lines.

Martin LesterBristol, United Kingdom

Tipping: Another effective battle technique involves actually contacting anopposing kite with your flying line. By catching one of the kite’s six corners andthen quickly moving position, you are often able to tip or up-end an opponent.If they are close to the ground, in poor field position, or just not particularlygood at recovering, this may put them out of the fight. But even if they dorecover, it still makes you look good.

When you tip a kite, be sure and follow it down so you can hit it again whileits owners are recovering. This is the easiest way to ground someone.Tipping an opponent several times to ground them makes you look reallygood.

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Wind Blocking: A more sophisticated technique involves using the wind --or lack of it -- to ground an opponent.


The Rokkaku is a fairly simple kite to make and a remarkably steady flier. You mightactually want to put a few together in different sizes and weights of material fordifferent wind and flying situations.

Battles are not always foughtunder ideal circumstances. If thewind is light, simply stayingairborne may be enough to winas everyone else backs up to thefield boundaries in an effortgenerate lift. They will run out ofspace and come down. If you’resmart, you won’t.

In light wind contest, you can also use your kite sail to block the wind of anopponent.

Battles are usually fought through a series of heats and the last kites in the air fromeach heat earns points. In some contests, awards are also given for team spirit,costumes, or the beauty of the kite itself.

The core rules of the Rokkaku Challenge as currently practiced in the UnitedKingdom and generally observed elsewhere include:

* Minimum kite height of 2 meters for teams* Standard kite height of 1 meter for individuals* No Kevlartm, glass, coated or wire line* Minimum team size of 2 people* 3 rounds per festival* 15 minute time limit per round* Kites are required to engage* 10 minutes of repair and recuperation between rounds* The last 5 kites down receive points as follows:

last kite up 6 points2nd last kite up 4 points3rd last kite up 3 points4th last kite up 2 points5th last kite up 1 points

Teams with kites still in the air when time has expired share remaining points. Theteam’s best scores from any two festivals in a region are totaled to determine anoverall trophy winner.

Martin LesterBristol, United Kingdom

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Both designs rely on top and bottom portionswhich are one unit long. Another option is tolengthen the bottom portion to one-and-a-halfunits for slightly increased stability. Of course,stability in a battle may not be what you want.

Remember to finish off your sail by hemming allthe edges.

Sticks: Bamboo is the traditional material used for spars and the spine, but mostkites are now being constructed of hollow fiberglass or carbon and graphite rods. Asyour kites get larger, remember to position joints or connectors in the rods so thatthe kite remains balanced.

Rods are attached to the kite corners with fabric “pockets” and should be reinforcedat additional points in larger models. The spars will also be held in place by the bridleline connections. Pockets at the spar or horizontal corners are constructed with ringsor loops to allow the attachment of two bow lines.

Size: Rokkakus are usually built to specific proportions. The two most common arethe ratios of 3-4-5 and 4-5-6, where the first number is the distance between the twohorizontal cross spars, the second is the width of the spars, and the third is lengthof the center spine or overall height of the kite. (Illustration)

By using these ratios, you can easily design a kite of any size. For example, if yourbase number is ten inches, and you use the 4-5-6 ratio, the kite will be 50 inches wideand 60 inches tall with 40 inches between the two horizontal spars.

Of the two shapes, the 3-4-5 is generally more popular because the squarer shapeis well suited for most artwork.







1.5 1

Spine PocketsSpar Pockets withRings for Bow Line

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For the kite to handle properly, the sparsshould be bowed about one-half of one unit.Commercially or home made “sliders” and"tensioners" allow you to adjust the kites’sbowing. Experiment with different degrees ofarch in the upper and lower spars for a varietyof flying conditions. Generally, you shouldfind that a deeper bow in the lower spar willprovide more stability.

"Slider" maintainsbow in Bridle

Bridles: The easiest bridle for a average size Rokkaku is made from four lines. Theyare passed through the sail and attached to the cross spars on either side of thespine. For larger kites, you can add two more lines along the spine for a six-pointbridle.

Bridle length may vary but six times the length of the kite is recommended. This mayprove a bit long for a crowded battle environment so experiment. Combine changesin the angle of attack with adjustments in bowing for a finely tuned kite that will handleexactly the way you want.

Battle Strategy

Earlier, we talked about combat fundamentals like cutting, tipping, and blocking thewind of your opponents. That’s the easy part. The hard part is being in the rightposition to apply those tactics.

Maneuvering: Rokkaku’s, especially the bigger ones, do not maneuver or respondas quickly as the smaller fighter kites.

Instead of spinning the kite, you need to pump the line, pulling and releasing, in orderto make the kite rock or sway back and forth. The amount of line you give and retrievewill determine how much reaction you get. Then, like with smaller fighters, as soonas the Rokkaku is pointing in the direction you want, pull in on the line and the kitewill move. Slackening the line will cause the kite to stop and reorient itself.

If you don’t have time to maneuver the kite by “pumping and rocking”, move yourteam across the field. As long as you keep tension on the line, the kite will follow you.

To move vertically, all you have to do is release line to lower the kite, or pull in to makeit rise. It works the same way if you move your team downwind or upwind.

Smaller kites always have the advantage of speed and maneuverability, so very fewpeople fly anything larger than two meters. In fact, a Rokkaku the size of a fighter kitehas proven to be quite unbeatable.

Martin Lester Bristol, United Kingdom

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Don't be intimidated by bigger kites. They don't move as quickly, are easily upended,and recover slowly when tipped. In lighter winds, they are hard to keep in the air. Inheavier breezes, pulling them around wears out a team more quickly. And heavylines hardly ever cut through thinner ones.

So go for the big kites first! Think of them as large, slow moving targets.

Watch out for the "Blood Lust Run". The minute that two kites come in contact,somebody invariably grabs the head of the line and takes off across the field forreasons that I don’t completely understand. Avoid that temptation.

Use your knowledge and your skills and remember to have fun. Always ClaimVictory! Never let the facts get in the way.

Rick Kinnaird Jr.Bethesda, Maryland

Field Position: As we said before, positioning is everything in a battle. That includespositioning to take full advantage of strong or light winds, positioning to attack orretreat, and positioning to avoid major tangles.

Before you launch at the beginning of the battle, give some thought to the windconditions.

If winds are light, you may want to stay as far downwind as possible so youhave room to back-up and gain altitude. You may also want to use a long lineto get as much height during the launch as possible and be able to reel-in laterto maintain altitude.

If winds are heavy, you may want to position yourself upwind so you haveroom to move forward and drop into the fight. You may also want to use ashorter line so you can reel-out to make contact.

During the battle, it is helpful to maintain some field space around your team and yourkite. Room in the sky gives your kite space to maneuver. Room on the ground givesyou space to maneuver. Both can become very important.

Try to avoid multi-kite engagements that increase your risk of getting tangled orboxed in. Your chances of cutting or fighting your way out of that kind of a mess arerare. What’s more likely is that someone will wrap a line around your bridles and youwill all go down together.

Don’t hang back in a corner waiting for someone else to clear the skies, either. Youdon’t win battles or the respect of your opponents by running away. Look foropportunities and then attack! Besides, most contests will eventually disqualifycontestants that continue to avoid direct combat.

Finally, don’t let an opponent’s line contact your kite. Maintain the initiative. The bestposition to be in is to be on the attack, not on the defensive.

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Rokkaku Tuning: A number of factors can be adjusted to affect your flying andmaneuverability. The stiffness of your spars and spine, the proportions of the kite,the length of the bridle, position of the tow-point, and the amount of bow in either orboth of your spars will help or hamper maneuverability in different winds.


The two quickest and easiest adjustments you can make in the field are to changethe amount of bow in the kite, or to shift the tow-point.

Safety, Safety, Safety!

A good Rokkaku battle involves a large number of people running around in anenclosed area. Everyone is watching the kites and not where they are going. Kitesare being cut and falling. Line is all over the ground waiting to ensnare and trip theteams.

No wonder these fights are so much fun to watch! Everyone likes to see a really goodaccident...

Of course, no one likes to be in an accident so do everything you can to avoid them.Battles are great fun - but only if they are done carefully and everyone follows basicsafety rules.

Here are a few good rules to remember.

1.Gloves are essential for all participants. These are big kites being flown online intended to cut. Imagine what they can do to your hands.

2.The object is to make the kites fight - not the people. All intentional physicalcontact should be strictly prohibited including pushing, tripping, or purposelyrunning line around people. Any “dirty tricks” should result in disqualification.

3.Cutting implements other than flying line should not be allowed. And flyingline should not include Kevlartm, wire, or glass-coated line.

4.Don’t get so caught up in the frenzy of combat that you forget to keep an eyeopen for falling kites, loose line, field boundaries or other obstacles.

A safety and rules meeting before the battle begins will help everyone enjoy a saferand more intense contest.

As much fun as Rokkaku battles are to watch, they are even more fun to participatein. So we’ll warn you this one time: You only need to try it once to become addictedfor life.

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Ready to see how your flying skills shape up against the competition??

Depending on where you live or travel, fighter contests are either commonplace orfairly unusual. The good news is that more and more kite events are beginning toincorporate competitions specifically for fighters. And even if they aren’t on the eventschedule, some type of informal contest will often result whenever two or more fliersgather together.

After all, your kite was made and designed, in part, to “engage” others. We don’t callthem “fighters” for nothing...

In this chapter, we’re going to talk about four different types of contests — CuttingLine Fights, Line Contact Contests, Non-Contact Precision, and Freestyle. We’llalso share some hints that may help you improve your performance.

A standardized rule book for Fighter and Rokkaku contests is now available from theAmerican Kitefliers Association. This rule book will also be used by the AKA atnationally ranked events.

For a copy of the rule book, send $5 to the American Kitefliers Association at 1559Rockville Pike, Rockville Maryland 20852, USA.

If you are ready for these types of contests, you’re ready for anything. Your self-confidence, practice, and ability will prepare you for almost any kind of flying.Besides, contests are fun, and fun is what fighter flying should really be focusing onanyway.

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General Competition Suggestions

No matter what type of contest you enter, there are some basic tips that will help youdo better and have more fun.

-Practice in as many different wind conditions as possible. Remember, it’snever the winds fault.

-Check your equipment and tuning before you compete. Don’t rely on new orunfamiliar kites and line.

-Watch the contestants ahead of you to see what the wind is doing or whatnew tricks they are using.

-Remember that kites perform differently in different winds. Practice with avariety of sizes and designs. Compete with the best one for the conditions.

-Make sure that whoever is controlling the contestant order knows who youare and where you are. Don’t make them come looking for you.

-Be ready to go when it’s your turn. Never keep the judges waiting.

-If relaunches are allowed, recruit a good relaunch crew. No one plans tocrash. Remember to brief your crew so they know what you want done.

-Think positive! Don’t be nervous. If you say, “I’m gonna crash!”, you probablywill. Fly to please yourself and you’ll always do your best.

-Accept bad breaks graciously. Be a good sport. Congratulate the people thatbeat you and always thank the judges and field crew.

-Learn from everything - good and bad - that happens on the field.

-Enjoy yourself! Enjoy yourself! Enjoy yourself!

Competitive flying is an excellent way to test your skill and improve your ability. Thebest advice we can give you is to PRACTICE. Get to know your equipment, studythe rules, and watch the other fliers for new ideas. Then PRACTICE MORE.

Finesse, precision, and delicacy of control are the hallmark of an expert fighter kiteflier. Good luck!

Before you can become a good fighter, you must become a good flier. Concentratedpractice in launching and flying will give you a “feel” for your kite. When you knowwhat your kite can do and you are able to make it perform as you want it to perform,then you are ready to try kite fighting.

Dinesh BahadurPacific Grove, California

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Types of Competitions

The rules for fighter kite contests often vary from event to event. Sometimes, therules are simply whatever the players agree on before the match. While that imposesa certain amount of uncertainty on the process, it also allows for a great deal ofcreativity. And that’s good!

Rules are stuffy! Too much structure is counter to what I think fighters are all about.The idea is to be flexible, creative and to have fun. Make up the “rules” when thefliers get to the field.

Mel GovigRandallstown, Maryland

So now that we’ve told you that there are no "standard" kinds of contests, lets talkabout four of the “most standard” events you may encounter.

Cutting Line Fights: There are three types of contests you can enter with cuttingline: one-on-one matches, group-against-group, or an open-air free-for-all. In allcases, the object is to cut down opponents. Contestants maneuver their fighters sothe lines cross. Then they either let out line to cut by force, or pull in to try and slicethe opposing line. Usually, the line moving fastest wins.

In a one-on-one match, contestantsstand in seperate circles which arespaced several feet apart. Thisprevents the fliers from movingaround each other and focuses thecontest on maneuvering the kites.

Contestants launch and fly fromwithin their circles for the durationof the fight. The loser is the firstperson cut down or grounded.

Winners continue to advance intomatches against other winners untilan overall victor emerges.

Another alternative is to competewith a number of kites for a setamount of time. Contestants keepputting up kites until the allottedtime runs out. Then the flier whohas cut the most kites is declaredthe winner.

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In many traditional Asian contests, a kite which is cut loose becomes the propertyof the contest victor or the first person to catch it. Children will often gather downwindof the field waiting for prizes. Remember this tradition if you travel overseas. Don’tenter your favorite kite in a contest unless you are prepared to lose it.

Makoto Ohashi Tokyo, Japan

Remember that cutting line wears out or loses abrasiveness after contact with otherlines. This means that you must either replace portions of your line after each match,or concentrate on attacking opponents with different sections of your line.

Remember also, that cutting line can cut you or anyone else it comes into contactwith. Make sure that no one is in the flying area during a cutting line contest.

Sometimes, contests will limit the amount of cutting line to just a few feet up near thekite. Not only does this require more skill, it also has the added benefit of not makingthe contestants handle the glass line and cut themselves.

Line Contact Contests: Line contact games are very similar to one-on-one cuttingcontests except that glass line is not used. The object isn’t to sever an opponent’sline, but instead, to touch it in a certain way.

Sometimes, points will be awarded for a touch from underneath or below. Sometimes,the opposite will apply and the goal will be contact from above. The focus of thesecontests then becomes maneuvering for position rather than quickly making contactand working for a clean slice.

Contact games also last longer because the fighters stay in the air and time is nottaken to retrieve the losers.

I like to stay on the move. If you are on the offensive, your opponent will be on thedefensive. They will be forced to think and respond to your movements. Of course,thinking takes time. When they hesitate, that’s when you hit them.

Robert Loera Honolulu, Hawaii

Non-Contact Precision: Precision fighter flying is much different than contact orcutting contests. The goal is controlled flight rather than “combat”.

In most precision games, a paper cup or other target is placed on a pole in the middleof the flying field. Fliers stand behind a line upwind. The object is to knock the targetdown with your kite or flying line. Winners are either the flier to hit the target fastest,or the flier to make the most hits in a set amount of time.

For a real show, all the fliers compete at the same time with many poles set on thefield. Each contestant has their own target and judge. They all launch together andcompete in an entertaining frenzy of maneuvers, tangles, and hits.

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Speed and balance are critical in competition. Spend some time tuning before thematch, and once you have the kite ready, put it down. Don’t risk a knock before yourheat which will “ruin your tune”.

Joel ScholtzAustin, Texas

Freestyle: Freestyle contests are more subjective than those events where hits, linecontacts, or cuts can easily be counted. The object of a freestyle show is artistry andstyle. Contestants perform one at a time and panels of judges are asked to scoreperformances for their entertainment value.

Types of performance might include flying trains of fighters or two independent kitesat once. Some contestants perform specific patterns in the sky or interpret music ina choreographed "ballet". Balloon popping with kites is also real popular.

Just about anything is possible in a freestyle event. The kite, the line, and the flierall become part of an integrated program that has great crowd appeal. Some of theseevents have even been held indoors with the flier’s movements and line handlingskills generating the lift needed to keep the fighter airborne.

Fighting Techniques

Earlier, we said that finesse, precision, and delicacy of control are the skills that willmake you most successful in a fighter contest. Perhaps we should have added quickreactions and experience to the list. The experienced competitor will almost alwayshave an advantage because they have honed their skills and know what to expect.But you can overcome that advantage if you practice.

Holding and handling the flying line is probably the most important factor inimproving competition performance.

The line should be held so that the thumb pressesagainst the underside of the forefinger about threequarters of an inch from the tip. This part of theforefinger is very sensitive. With practice, you canfeel the difference in pressure when another linecontacts or crosses your own.

Practice line handling until you get really good at

Always be careful about your line handling in a contest or match. The silliest way tolose points is to let your line get tangled or hung-up on your shoes and shirt buttons.

Robert Loera Honolulu, Hawaii

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moving the fighter where you want it to go. You want to be able to climb, dive, or movehorizontally quite quickly to avoid an opponent’s line. In extremes, you may need tolet the line go entirely slack.

Practicing for a match is important, but the biggest problem people have is practicingwithout a partner. Start out by just maneuvering your kite left and then right. Thentry flying under the branch of a tree. Use any kind of stationary “target” available. Justmake sure your target isn’t too tall to climb if it catches you first.

Robert Loera Honolulu, Hawaii

Another thing to remember is that most fighters perform at their best in a limited areadirectly downwind called the "power zone". Enticing an opponent out of their powerzone and into your's gives you a decided advantage.

Equal Maneuverability

Your Maximum Control

Opponent's MaximumVulnerability

As many kites will be lost in a contest to ground touches as to actual contact orcutting. Remember what we learned earlier about how the wind changes as it nearsthe ground and about flying line stretch and drag.

- Long line means the kite will move slower.- Short line allows the kite to move faster.- Long line provides more maneuverability and height.- Short line offers a smaller target to attack but are also more vulnerable to a ground touch.

Most maneuvering of fighters occurs at 5 to 10 degrees off center and above or belowthe natural angle of flight. At a natural angle, a fighter is usually very stable and itwill take exceptional action on your part to put it in motion. Immobility is vulnerabilityin a kite fight.

The length of line used by both fliers determines the size of the “engagement zone”.If your line is longer, your fighter will need to fly a further distance in order to bringyour line into striking distance.

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Often in a fight, one contestant will "hang" in the far side of their maneuverable zone.Excited by the prospect of an opponent "just sitting around", the opposing flier willcross out of their optimal maneuverable zone to attack. Who's the "sitting duck"? Theattacker who through impatience has swung out of the wind.

Don't follow the bear into their own den! Be patient. Make the bear come out to meetyou in the middle ground.

Ric MerrySeattle, Washington

Beware an opponent who is accelerating up as well as to the right or left. Each kitehas a limited flying area which is based on the line length and the wind speed. At theend of every skyward dash of a fighter, there has to be a turn. Which direction it willtake, and how soon, is the stuff of which great kite battles are made.

With practice and experience, you will learn about angles of opposition, wind effects,and anticipating an opponent’s moves. After that, it’s simply a matter of reaction timeand split-second decisions.

Equal Maneuverability

Your Maximum Control

Opponent's MaximumVulnerability

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Susie and I have just returned from the beach. It was one of those glorious afternoons on theOregon Coast - clear skies, light breezes, and waves crashing hard on the rocks. Just off shore,the first whales of the season were passing on their annual spring migration from California toAlaska.

Turbulance from the cliffs kept most kites on the ground, but my fighter flew like it was born inthe sky. Sharp turns, fast ground passes, long straight dives to within inches of the ground. Iwas in heaven - or at least connected to it by my line.

Finally, a helpful spectator, one of those people whose kite couldn't seem to fly in the bumpywinds, came over to give me some advice. "Maybe if you put a tail on it," he said, "it would flybetter".

I just smiled...

Back at the beginning of this book, I said that fighters can do things no other kite can. PerhapsI should have added that they can make you feel the way no other kite can. I hope that I havebeen able to communicate the sense of joy and wonder that these kites offer. Sometimes, it'shard to explain to people until until they see a grown man or woman out there on the flying fieldwith that uniquely silly grin on their face.

If through this manual, you've learned to fly safer, or better, or skipped over a few of theproblems that you might have otherwise encountered, then I've accomplished my goal.

All I ask in return is that you pass your experience along to the next flier you meet.

The sensation of flying kites is not the only reward that this pastime has brought Susie and I.We've also been privileged to meet new and warm friends all around the globe. Occasionally,we are flattered when the winner of an event turns to us and says, "I learned to fly by readingyour book." Other times, the introduction is a bit more of a reality check - like when people comeup to us and say, "You must be the Gombergs. We recognized the dog from the cover!"

Either way, please make a point of saying hello if our lines ever cross.


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Fighter Kites:

Mahfuz Ali Kahn, India Fighter Kites: A Simple Introduction to Kite-Flying (New York: Bahadur of India, 1960)8 pp. Out of print.

Dineesh Bahadur, Come Fight a Kite (New York: Harvey House, 1978) 56pp. Out of print but still available inmany retail stores. Good overview of flying and fighting.

Dineesh Bahadur, “Legend and Fact of Kite Fighting” Kite Tales Magazine (Summer 1975, pages 30-32).

Philippe Gallot, Fighter Kites - 29 Original Designs to Make and Fly (New York, St Martin’s Press, 1989) 96 pp.Good variety of kite designs and information on construction.

Mel Govig, “Fighter Kites - How to Pick and Wield Your Weapon”, KiteLines Magazine (First Quarter, 1982, pages38-41). Excellent overview of flying tips and techniques.

Into the Wind, Inc. “Flying Times” (Summer 1991). Information newsletter and Mail Order catalog with focuson fighters.

George Peters, “Kites over Ahmedabad” KiteLines Magazine (Summer, 1989, pages 42-45). Colorful descriptionof large-scale Indian festival.

Will Yolen, Complete Book of Kites and Kite Flying 256pp.(1976). Out of print.

Rokkaku Making and Fighting:

KiteLines Magazine, The Compleat Rokkaku Kite Chronicles and Training Manual, (Randdallstown MD, AeolusPress, 1991) 20 pp. A wonderful collection of articles previously published on Rokkakus in KiteLines.

Wolfgang Schimmelpfennig, Making and Flying Kites (English translation, Secaucus, NJ, Castle, 1989) pp43-45. Well detailed drawings and instructions.

Tal Streeter, The Art of the Japanese Kite (New York, Weatherhill, 1974) 181 pp. Descriptions of Japanese kitefestivals, kite makers, and kite traditions. No plans.

Kitemaking and Construction:

Margaret Greger, Kites for Everyone (Richland, WA, M Greger, 1986) 136 pp. Excellent collection of kite plansand tips.

Carol Thomas, Kite Crazy (Toronto, Ontario Canada, SOMA Film and Video, 1991) 176 pp. Based on a Canadianvideo series. Includes plans and instructions for the Kiskadee Fighter and a medium sized Tyvek Rokkaku.

Leland Toy, Flight Patterns (Scottsdale, AZ, Sky High Press, 1984) 60 pp. From a television kitemaking series.Good basic plans for eight kites including a Mylar fighter.


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